It took a little while for Missouri Rep. Shawn Rhoads’ colleagues to wrap their heads around the idea of taxing marijuana and other illegal drugs.
“A drug dealer is supposed to show up and buy a tax stamp for his drugs?” Bill Lant, a Republican from southwest Missouri, asked during a committee hearing on the bill.
Most of the hearing went pretty much like that.
“They needed a little time to let the idea sink in,” said Rhoads, a south-central Missouri Republican. “About 15 minutes after the meeting, I had someone grab me and say, ‘I get it now.’”
It must have sunk in. The bill won the committee’s approval Wednesday.
But while lawmakers ponder making Missouri the 21st state to collect taxes on illegal drugs, they’re also contemplating heading in the opposite direction and making Missouri the 24th to legalize marijuana in some fashion.
Two weeks earlier, that same House committee approved a medical marijuana bill on a 10-1 vote.
Missouri’s increasingly conservative politics, and its overwhelmingly Republican General Assembly, apparently aren’t immune to the national momentum behind marijuana legalization.
Gallup has been surveying the public on marijuana since 1969. In 2013, it found for the first time that a clear majority of Americans — 58 percent — believed the drug should be legal. That was a 10 point jump in just one year.
Twenty-three states have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. Four of those states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have legalized marijuana for recreational use, while the rest legalized it for medicinal purposes. In the District of Columbia, it’s now legal to grow pot and give it away, but not to sell it.
Last year, Missouri lawmakers approved legislation allowing the use of no-high hemp oil for children with rare forms of epilepsy. The cannabidiol, or CBD oil, bill marked the first time Missouri legislators “took a positive vote on anything related to cannabis,” said Sen. Jason Holsman, a Kansas City Democrat.
“It was an incremental step,” Holsman said. “Now we’re in a position to take another incremental step.”
That baby step would create a tightly regulated medical marijuana system in Missouri.
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