Legalizing marijuana debate continues

Published: Nov. 7, 2014 at 10:08 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2014 at 10:16 PM CST
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POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - Earlier this week, two states and the District of Columbia approved recreational marijuana, but could Missouri be next? It's possible if a Missouri-based group has their way. But not everyone is in favor of the idea.

Supporters of the group Show-Me Cannabis say legalizing marijuana has the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues. However, one Poplar Bluff police officer says that revenue wouldn't be worth it in the end.

Officer Josh Stewart says marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the area. He calls the drug a gateway to others.

"Ice methamphetamine and heroine are pretty prevalent in this community," Stewart said.

He says legalizing marijuana would lead to bigger problems.

"Contributing to people moving onto harder drugs," Stewart said.

Others say legalization would benefit the state.

"We are using tens of millions of dollars to arrest people for using cannabis and those people are not harming anyone else and that's time that our law enforcement agents are not spending going after more serious offenses," John Payne with Show-Me Cannabis said.

Payne says the change in law would bring tax revenue to Missouri education, veteran's services and even police departments.

"Upwards of 17,000 million dollars," Payne said.

That's one of the main reasons why the group has filed a petition to get the issue on the ballot in 2016.

"Legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the state of Missouri," Payne said.

While some police groups like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition support legalization, Officer Stewart says the bad outweighs the good.

"It just increases the workload, as far as the DUI aspect of it, it will definitely increase the backlogs," Stewart said.

Plus, he says making sure users are safe on the roads would be another challenge.

"There's not just a breath test for it," Stewart said.

He says officers have to send tests to the lab, which takes time.

"Usually anywhere from three to six months," Stewart said.

Payne says it's time to let Missouri voters decide.

"Make sure we get this right, promote the initiative and get it passed in November," Payne said.

Payne says the proposal is not yet finalized. He says members of the group are still gathering feedback and planning to conduct polls. He says they plan to start collecting signatures by early next year.

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