Governor Jay Nixon talked about many things in his State of the State speech Tuesday night. He talked about jobs (used the word 20 times), kids (said "child" 16 times), the economy (12 times), and he even gave a shout-out to the LGBT community.
But one thing he never mentioned: marijuana reform.
As everyone knows by now, Washington and Colorado have legalized, several others have legalized medical marijuana - including Illinois -- and there's a good chance legalization will be on the Missouri ballot this year. It's a thing -- and an important one, since it affects the economy, police resources, and access to medicine.
Oh - and then there's that whole human rights thing. Marijuana is so heavily criminalized in Missouri that it's possible to get a life without parole sentence for nonviolent marijuana offenses. Just ask Jeff Mizanskey, who's been locked up for 20 years as part of a life without parole sentence and has recently asked Nixon for clemency.
People all across Missouri and the country have urged Nixon to do it, and with marijuana legalization in the headlines, the State of the State could have been a good time to at least touch on the subject. Maybe ask legislators to discuss it. Or say he is considering the effects. Something. But it never happened, despite the drastically absurd fact that marijuana is something completely legal in Seattle, but can get you life without parole in Sedalia.
Here's what Show Me Cannabis executive director John Payne's tells Daily RFT about it:
"I'm not surprised that Governor Nixon is avoiding discussing the manifestly unjust life without parole sentence that Jeff Mizanskey has been serving for the past two decades for a non-violent cannabis offense, nor that he declined to engage with the issue of cannabis law reform more broadly. The Governor's primary goal seems to be avoiding controversy at any cost, and that may make him palatable to voters, but being a leader should be about doing what is right, not what is politically convenient. Governor Nixon has far too often chosen the latter over the former."
Nixon has been almost silent about marijuana reform during his entire stint as governor. About the only time he addressed the topic was when his son, Willson, was arrested for possession at a college party in 2011.
Click on the next page to read more about the Nixons on weed...
"This is a private matter that will be handled through the municipal process," the governor said after the arrest. "My son is a fine young man, and we will be working through this issue as a family." See also: Will Nixon: Governor's Son Charged with Marijuana Possession
And that's exactly what happened. Charges against Willson Nixon were dropped. No jail time. Not even community service or a ticket. If only other families could also work through such issues as a family that way.
Instead, Missouri police arrested 20,000 people for marijuana in 2011, and 91 percent of those were for possession, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. The ACLU says that number makes Missouri the 13th highest for marijuana arrests by state. Per capita, the Show-Me State is 11th in the nation.
Most of those people don't have money for a lawyer, much less dads for governors. That makes it difficult to get the handcuffs taken off without some kind of blemish on one's record, whether it's through prison time or a fine.
Even small amounts of pot can cause problems. Large amounts can cause years - even a life - in prison. But it's legal in two states.
With the cultural and political shift towards marijuana legalization, it would seem like a good idea for the governor of a state with some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country to at least address the issue. But instead, Nixon has remained silent.
Talking about Missouri losing out on the coveted Boeing 777x contract in his State of the State speech, Nixon said, "We didn't win the biggest prize - but we competed at the highest level."
But Washington won. At the highest level, too.
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E-mail him at Ray.Downs@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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