Missouri’s Sole Black Representative Leads Charge on Cannabis Reform

Criminal justice reform has not always been a priority for state representative Shamed Dogan, (R)  when first selected to the Missouri congress in 2014. As he joins his final year before term limits end his tenure in the Missouri House of Representatives, the pre-filed resolution to legalize cannabis and expunge civic and criminal records about all low-level, cannabis-related crimes.

House Joint Resolution 83 would employ an amendment to the Missouri Constitution before the state’s voters next Fall, permitting the legal adult use of cannabis, subject to Missouri regulation, taxation, and provincial law. If enacted, all those imprisoned or on probation for non-violent cannabis offenses will be immediately freed and not subject to any form of state supervision.

During Empower Missouri’s “Clean Slate Town Hall” hearing held earlier this week, Dogan stated he hopes to encounter the same barriers those who legalized medicinal cannabis faced back in 2018. Dogan, the sole Black Republican in the state legislature, revealed he will run for St. Louis County Executive in the Fall of 2022.

“There’s a multitude of reluctance among Republicans in general, but particularly in the Senate where it only required a select amount of people who have a firm opposition to block it from moving forward,” Dogan stated.

“Even if we were capable of passing something in the Missouri House, it was DOA in the Senate. Ultimately, we came out of the meeting with a [medicinal cannabis] voting initiative. We made the debate at the time that if you don’t like what we’re putting forth legislatively, what’s on the ballot is going to be much less promising. And you as a lawmaker aren’t going to have any capability to impact it since it’s going to be installed in the Missouri Constitution.”

Legal Missouri 2022, an organization created to put the legalization of cannabis on the ballot next Fall, launched a movement earlier this month to acquire the necessary 170,000 signatures to put the initiative before Missouri voters. Legal Missouri 2022’s drive is comparable to Dogan’s as it legalizes adult-use cannabis for individuals 21 and older and automatically expunges low-level cannabis-connected crimes (say that three times fast.)

Despite this, the organization’s drive levies a 6 percent Missouri state tax on retail cannabis sales. It also allows local governments to evaluate local retail sales of cannabis taxes of up to 3 percent. Dogan’s solution imposes a 12 percent tax for private cannabis use and 4 percent for medicinal use. All tax revenues will be placed in a “Smarter and Safer Missouri Fund” to be disbursed to the Missouri Veterans Commission, allocated to infrastructure with the Missouri Department of Transportation, the broadening of high-speed internet access, and drug therapy programs and courts.

“I would expect that, after witnessing some of the alternative bills out there, there would be some debate about doing this among lawmakers,” Dogan expressed. “However, I don’t have great expectancies given the antagonism of some of those lawmakers to any form of cannabis legalization.”

State Senator. Brian Williams, (D-St. Louis County) joined Dogan on the web-based seminar and promised his support.

“At this time, there are folks in jail for possession of cannabis and driving while Black and blamed with possessing minor amounts of cannabis,” stated Williams, the first Black member of the Missouri Senate in nearly twenty years. “I believe we need to legalize cannabis in the state of Missouri. I think we ought to free individuals who’ve been put in jail for simply having or using cannabis.”

Earlier this week, Tishaura Jones, the Mayor of St. Louis, autographed a measure to repeal laws prohibiting possession of small quantities of cannabis and cannabis-related paraphernalia. A news statement revealed the laws became outdated after the passage of medicinal cannabis.

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