"Mastermind" of Oregon Marijuana Legalization Turns Attention to Missouri

Flickr via Torben Hansen
Hey Oregon, can you pass that?
Ever since July 2, a happy cloud of pot smoke has hovered over Oregon. On that date, the state's governor signed a marijuana legalization measure into law, making Oregon the fourth state in the U.S. to reject the failed tactics of pot prohibition.

It was a particularly heady moment for Travis Maurer. But not necessarily because of the legal weed.

A Missouri native, Maurer had been living in Columbia in 2009 when police officers burst into his home. Acting on a tip, investigators discovered 300 pot plants and assorted growing equipment. During the raid, his wife, Leah, miscarried what would have been the couple's third child. Maurer was charged with felony-level drug crimes.

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Californian Busted Smuggling 400 Pounds of Pot Chocolate into Missouri

Kansas City Star via YouTube
Pot chocolate: It's the munchie that give you the munchies.
Channeling equal parts Hunter S. Thompson and Willy Wonka, a California man found himself behind bars earlier this week after Missouri police ended his cross-county quest to sweeten the lives of stoners.

On Tuesday, Jeffrey J. Woo, 42, of Ladera Ranch, California, was stopped by a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper while driving east on Interstate 70 in Lafayette County, around 30 miles from Kansas City. The trooper pulled over Woo's 2015 Infiniti QX60 for a traffic violation, and repordedly noticed Woo's "inconsistencies and deceptive behavior."

When the trooper searched the vehicle, he uncovered 400 pounds of marijuana chocolate bars stashed in boxes in the SUV's cargo area.

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Bill Introduced To Release Jeff Mizanskey From Life Sentence for Marijuana Charges

Ray Downs
Jeff Mizanskey has languished in prison since 1993 for three nonviolent pot charges.
It's not every day that a Missouri lawmaker proposes a bill to free one man from prison.

This week, however, Republican representative Shamed Dogan did exactly that with House Bill 978, which would allow a parole board to release any prisoner serving a life sentence for nonviolent marijuana charges.

There's only one Missouri convict who fits that description: Jeff Mizanskey, a 61-year-old grandfather who has spent more than two decades behind bars because of the state's draconian three-strike law for drug crimes.

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Gov. Nixon Says He'll Review Why Jeff Mizanskey Is Serving a Life Sentence for Pot

Show-Me Cannabis
It looks like Governor Jay Nixon is finally paying attention to Jeff Mizanskey.
Maybe it was the billboard placed near his mansion. Maybe it was the letter-writing campaign. Maybe it was the nearly 400,000 signatures on a petition. Or maybe it's the throngs marijuana-legalization advocates gearing up for Missouri's 2016 election.

Whatever the reason, Governor Jay Nixon now says he'll take a "hard look" at the case of Jeff Mizanskey, the only Missouri prisoner serving a life sentence for marijuana-only charges.

"It's a very serious amount of time," Nixon told KMBC-TV. "If the laws change after someone is sentenced, then you want to give those things a close look."

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Nixon Pardons Nine Nonviolent Offenders, Ignores Man Serving Life for Pot

Kholood Eid
Jeff Mizanskey has languished in prison for more than twenty years -- all on nonviolent pot charges.
As far as late Christmas presents go, Governor Jay Nixon's decision to pardon nine nonviolent offenders is as big and unprecedented as they come.

But for a governor who, before Monday, has pardoned only one person since taking office in 2009, the list of formerly naughty Missourians is arguably more notable for the name it doesn't include.

While the eight men and one woman Nixon pardoned yesterday already served their sentences for felony and misdemeanor crimes ranging from minor theft, writing bad checks and marijuana possession, there's no mention of Jeff Mizanskey, the only inmate in the state who's currently serving a life sentence without parole for three nonviolent pot charges.

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Marijuana Activists to Refile Legalization Petition After Elections Office Rejects It

The marijuana-legalization activists who filed an initiative petition to get legal weed on the 2016 ballot are re-filing their paperwork after the secretary of state's office rejected it for minor form issues.

So if you were looking to comment on or sign the petition, you'll have to wait a little longer.

Before a new ballot initiative is approved by the secretary of state's office, the attorney general takes a look-see to make sure the language conforms to legal style, which can be tricky. After KC NORML submitted its proposal to regulate marijuana like food -- meaning no age restrictions, no DUI risk, no taxes for medical product -- the attorney general's office rejected it for minor style issues, including incorrect underlining and brackets.

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Missouri Weed Legalization Proposal Includes No Age Restrictions, Immunity from DUIs

eggrole via flickr
Will Missouri be the next state to legalize weed?
Even in states where marijuana is recreationally legal, it's no free-for-all.

Age restrictions, public-intoxication laws, high taxes -- the rules for legal recreational pot use in Colorado, Washington (and soon, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C.) resemble rules aimed at legal intoxicants, such as nicotine or alcohol.

But team behind the newest proposal to legalize marijuana in Missouri wants to change all that.

Author and cannabis activist Mark Pedersen doesn't think marijuana needs the same strict rules as alcohol or cigarettes. A better comparison, Pedersen tells Daily RFT, is to food, and he calls cannabis a "superfood."

"I believe that cannabis needs to be as legal as corn or wheat," Pedersen says. "We don't want to discourage use of cannabis because it is less toxic than baby aspirin. It would be like putting an age limit on corn."

See also: Why 2016 Could Be the Year Missouri Legalizes Marijuana

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Our 14 Most-Read Marijuana Stories from 2014

rafael-castillo via Flickr
It's been a big year for weed.

Two states have legalized it, and three more are on the way. Here in Show-Me State, advocates are already campaigning to get legalized recreational marijuana on the 2016 ballot.

As the year wraps up, Daily RFT thought we'd take a look through some of our most-read stories on that fine stuff.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch Endorses Missouri Efforts to Legalize Marijuana in 2016

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Show-Me State may be ready to legalize weed.
Is Missouri ready to join Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., in legalizing marijuana? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks so.

The editorial board for St. Louis' metro daily newspaper has often supported legalizing pot, especially with this region's history of hemp agricultural production. But a week after Show-Me Cannabis filed the first round of paperwork to get the issue on the 2016 ballot, the Post-Dispatch published a piece headlined, "Editorial: Could pot legalization make Missouri's 2016 ballot? Let's hope so."

"Let the great pot debate of 2016 begin," the editorial says.

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Show-Me Cannabis Files Petition to Put Legal Weed on November 2016 Ballot

cagrimmett via flickr
2016 could be the year Missouri legalizes marijuana.
Missouri has taken the first step toward putting legal marijuana on the 2016 ballot.

As we reported Monday, Show-Me Cannabis planned to file the paperwork this week to put an initiative on the November 2016 ballot. On Thursday, the Secretary of State's office announced that the group submitted an initiative petition to amend the Missouri Constitution to allow for the sale and use of marijuana.

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