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Missouri Cannabis Law Reform Conference Recap


missouri cannabis reform conference 2012On November 3rd, three days before the historic election that saw cannabis prohibition tumble down in two states and an 18th state join the growing list of medical marijuana states, activists convened in Columbia, Missouri, to attend the Missouri Cannabis Law Reform Conference.  The National Cannabis Coalition was a co-sponsor of the event and I was honored to speak at this gathering of dedicated activists.  As a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia, I co-authored measures that eventually decriminalized personal amounts of cannabis for all adults and legalized possession by qualified patients in 2004, so it was great to revisit the ol’ stomping grounds.

During the morning session on a beautiful Saturday, conference attendees heard updates from Show-Me Cannabis activists, including Dan Viets and Amber Langston, two great activists who were instrumental in the positive law reforms in Columbia Missouri.  Dan and Amber were joined by John Payne and Maranda Reynolds, two great Missouri activists who are doing great work across the state.  I provided an update about the activities of NCC across the country and my wife Sarah Duff, a founding member of Women Against Prohibition, also spoke at the conference, providing tips on how to gather the needed signatures to place marijuana law reform measures on local ballots.  Attendees were provided an opportunity to ask questions, and there were plenty of great questions, particularly about the ongoing efforts to decriminalize cannabis in Springfield, Missouri, and the latest lawsuit seeking to reschedule marijuana at the federal level.

doug fine missouri cannabis law reform conference

During the afternoon session, conference attendees were treated to several great presentations.  First up, was Doug Fine, best-selling author of Farewell, My Subaru and Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution.  In Too High to Fail, Doug embedded himself with the medical cannabis community in Mendocino County, California, with extensive access into the lives of growers and local law enforcement.  Mr. Fine weaves a great tale of his vision of a Drug Peace Era that replaces our current Drug War.  Doug found a slice of the Drug Peace Era in Mendocino County with the implementation of a medical marijuana regulatory system that generated $600,000 for the county, saving the jobs of  seven deputy sheriffs in 2011.  Not only did the successful medical program generate revenue and create jobs, but also improved public safety as the local community was more inclined to trust local law enforcement, knowing that the public servants were there to protect the community and not bust them.  Unfortunately, the federal government couldn’t let this successful program continue and threatened the Mendocino Board of Supervisors with racketeering charges if they didn’t disband the program.  Doug, a farmer and father of two, is determined to share his vision of a new Drug Peace throughout Middle America.  I definitely recommend his book and encourage groups across the country to invite Doug to town to give his great presentation.

radley balko missouri cannabis law reform conference

After Doug Fine was Radley Balko, a former writer for Reason Magazine and current contributor to the Huffington Post.  Radley has been conducting great research into SWAT raids and the unfortunate militarization of local law enforcement agencies across the nation.  His presentation provided great insight into how the War on Drugs has led to an expansion of civil liberties violations and the unnecessary use of military tactics and weaponry by police agencies across the country.  Mr. Balko’s presentation included footage of the Jonathan Whitworth raid in Columbia, Missouri.  The Whitworth raid garnered national attention when only a small amount of marijuana was found in the house, yet armed officers shot two family dogs while a young child was present in the house.  It was noted that Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton, who was in attendance, has done a good job of limiting the use of SWAT raids following the controversy caused by the Whitworth raid.  Radley’s presentation is a great warning to everyone who is concerned about our loss of civil liberties and he should be sought out by activists across the country to give his presentation.  Don’t forget to invite local law enforcement.

The keynote speaker at the conference was Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann.  Mr. Nadelmann is one of, if not the, top drug policy expert in the country (if not the world).  Columbia, Missouri, was lucky to snag Mr. Nadelmann and drug policy reformers across the country should seek him out and book him for events and conferences.  Ethan, a former Princeton professor, has a great speaking style that educates his listeners, providing hope and inspiration, but without sugar-coating anything.

ethan nadelmann missouri cannabis law reform conference

Nadelmann spoke about the three things he found most inspiring regarding drug law reform today.  First, was that the popularity of locking people up and throwing away the key had subsided among the people.  The rising cost of incarcerating over two million people had simply reached a tipping point in the United States.  Secondly, reforms internationally are increasing across the globe.  Uruguay has started the process to legalize marijuana and similar positions have been supported by several leaders in Central and South America.  Many of these leaders had formerly been drug warriors and seeing them realize the harmful consequences of prohibition has started a serious movement to find alternatives to the devastating War on Drugs.  The Global Commission on Drugs, an affiliation of several former world leaders calling for an end to the Drug War including former presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Greece, Mexico, Portugal and Switzerland has added to the interational community moving away from the failed Drug War.  Mr. Nadelmann is meeting with leaders across the globe as they seek advice on how to end prohibition and they could not be meeting with anyone better.  Finally, Ethan was encouraged by the marijuana law reforms on the ballot this year and the election proved his optimism correct as both Colorado and Washington voted to end cannabis prohibition and Massachusetts overwhelmingly decided to become the 18th medical marijuana state.

radley balko ethan nadelmann doug fine missouri conference

After the conference, all of the speakers and many attendees joined a fundraiser at the Grand Cru restaurant.  Money was raised for the efforts to reform marijuana laws in the Show-Me State and a good time was had by all.  Proceeds from the event were split between Missouri NORML and Show-Me Cannabis Regulation.  If you happen to be in Missouri or find yourself in Missouri when the next Missouri Cannabis Law Reform Conference is held, you will not be disappointed if you attend.  It was a pleasure for NCC to co-sponsor the event and I was personally proud to speak.  I can’t wait for the next one and hope to see you there.

Republished with special permission from the National Cannabis Coalition


About Author

Anthony Johnson is the director of New Approach Oregon, the PAC responsible for Measure 91, that ended cannabis prohibition for all Oregon adults in 2014. In addition to helping organize the International Cannabis Business Conference & the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference, he also serves as a Board Member of the National Cannabis Coalition, working to legalize cannabis across the country and Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, an organization specifically working to end cannabis prohibition in Missouri. As President of the University of Missouri Law School ACLU Chapter, Anthony co-authored the measures that legalized medical cannabis possession and decriminalized personal possession for all adults within the city limits of Columbia, Missouri, in 2004. Following law school, Anthony practiced criminal defense for two years before working full time in the political field to help improve and protect civil liberties. You can follow Anthony on Twitter and also friend him on Facebook by following the links below as he posts mostly about civil liberties and politics with dashes of sports, music, movies and whatnot.


  1. I am disappointed I couldn’t make it, I had a close friend pass away and I was unable to make it to Columbia, but I look forward to more events here in Missouri.

  2. Perhaps the joke of the mystery as to why Matt Cohen and Doug Fine
    are so vehemently suppressing the messenger behind the green curtain,
    who discovered that a blatant lengthy help wanted classified ad was
    placed by Northstone Organics, in the Ukiah Daily Journal a week before
    widely publicized federal bust of Northstone’s processing and central
    cultivation facility, is that both of Matt and Doug actually wanted the
    eradication for the publicity it would bring to their true agenda of non
    drug tainted financial success.

    Doug had been writing a book on Matt’s project, from the start of
    seed germination to distribution with the collective dispensary
    contribution sales, so Doug wasn’t making drug money, but would be
    keenly interested in the myth perpetuated by the factual omission in
    Doug’s book, echoing the media myth commentary from around the nation,
    of reporters who did not find the published classified ad smoking gun.

    For perhaps a year’s time, Matt had been doing extensive public
    interviews, with video segments appearing repeatedly on national
    television programs. Rumors persist Matt was probably paid $10K each
    for some of the interviews which were televised, as that supposedly was
    the sum offered by several media video crews to another Mendocino
    dispensary operator who chose to remain unpublicized.

    Matt’s money is clearly not drug related as it is clean from the
    televised presentations, and thus he remains a free and clear martyr of
    the medical cannabis movement.

    So there is a certain irony, in that Matt now represents the medical
    marijuana Emerald Growers Association which supports the new AB 2284
    (Chesbro) Irrigation bill, which if implemented by any County Board of
    Supervisors in California, after the first of the year 2013, which would
    allow a peace officer to stop all vehicles for inspection, which are
    visibly transporting irrigation pipe over any unpaved road, public or
    private, if LE has a legal right to be on that road.

    The rational of the Emerald Growers Association, appears to be that
    their water sources are legitimate, so they don’t mind diminished civil
    rights for others transporting supplies who could be doing it for
    illegal growing, because their own growing is legal.

    But are not the EGA members, in a sense, ducks in the same pot of
    soup under certain threats of illegality, except of course for the legit
    media stars, Doug and Matt, so why would any of them support traffic
    stops for investigating movement of water pipe on unpaved roads that are
    not on public nor timber resource lands? Is it like no honor among
    thieves? Did Matt and Doug sure pulled a fast one on this, and
    hoodwinked almost everyone, lock, stock, and barrel?

  3. Wish I had heard about this conference. I would have liked to attend it. I would like to volunteer my time..as I am disabled and can no longer work, I have oodles of time on my hands…would be better for me than playing games all day!

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