Missouri Measure Would Put Marijuana Legalization on the Ballot; Foundation to Nullify Federal Prohibition

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Feb. 27, 2018) – Legislation filed in the Missouri House would create a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, setting the foundation to nullify federal cannabis prohibition in effect in the Show-Me State.

Rep. Courtney Curtis (D-Berkeley) introduced House Joint Resolution 86 (HJR86) on Feb. 15. The legislation would initiate a referendum and give Missouri voters the opportunity to add the following language into the state constitution during the 2018 elections in November:

That the possession or consumption of marijuana by a person twenty-one years of age or older shall not be a criminal offense in this state. However, the state and political subdivisions thereof may enact criminal laws addressing actions taken while intoxicated by marijuana and the consumption of marijuana in public places.

Both chambers of the legislature will have to approve HJR86 by a two-thirds majority for the initiative to be placed on the ballot in November.

“If another state outpaces us, that can be a missed opportunity for Missouri,” Curtis said in a News Tribune report. “Legalization is something that can bring revenue to the state. Growing as fast as we have, we have to look at mechanisms for creating revenue.”

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HJR86 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.


Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the feds maintain complete prohibition of cannabis. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of marijuana in Missouri would remove a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By mostly ending state prohibition, Missouri could essentially sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.


Cannabis oil is currently legalized for medical use in Missouri. Passage of HJR86 would further ignore federal prohibition and nullify it in practice in the state. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalized recreational cannabis, with California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joining them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states in November 2016.

With 29 states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.


HJR86 will need to be referred to a committee and pass that committee by a majority vote before it can receive consideration in the full House.

About Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.

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