By John Payne, National Cannabis Coalition and Show Me Cannabis Regulation
Bob Parker is running for Congress in Missouri’s eighth district. The district is comprised of Southeast Missouri, and it is arguably the most conservative in Missouri, making the the Republican primary in August more important than the general election in November. It is also my home district, and my first political experience was helping gather signatures to put Parker’s primary opponent, incumbent Jo Ann Emerson, on the ballot after the death of her husband Representative Bill Emerson from cancer in 1996, when I was 13 years old.
Last month, Parker spoke to members of Poplar Bluff for Liberty about his campaign, and a member of the group asked about his position on cannabis policy. Parker explained that while he did not support ending marijuana prohibition, he did believe that the United States Constitution does not give the federal government the power to ban cannabis, so each state has the authority to set its own laws on the matter without federal interference. Since then, the Emerson campaign has used that statement to paint Parker as dangerous and out of step with the eighth district. Seeing as Poplar Bluff is my hometown, and Poplar Bluff for Liberty is a group that I have advised, and that Missouri cannabis policy is my bailiwick, I can’t help but speak to the issue. Below is my message to Mr. Parker.
It is shameful that Rep. Emerson has claimed that you believe in marijuana legalization when you do not. But that is politics, and she is a career politician, so you should not be surprised. I would ask that you reconsider your position on the issue, however. To quote Oliver Cromwell, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think that you may be mistaken.”
Cannabis prohibition has done little if anything to keep people from using the substance. It is de facto legal for Dutch citizens to use marijuana, but only 22 percent of the Dutch population has done so compared to over 42 percent of the population here in the United States. We have managed to cut the use of cigarette smoking among teens through education and regulation to the point that fewer high school seniors smoke cigarettes than use marijuana, which is regulated only by the black market where dealers do not check ID. Finally, an arrest and criminal record are far more likely to destroy someone’s life than the cannabis plant itself.
Regardless of your prohibitionist view at the state and local levels, I commend you for understanding that the Constitution imposes limits upon federal power – even when you do not necessarily like those limits. When the United States banned alcohol, it required a constitutional amendment, and when the country re-legalized alcohol, the states repealed that amendment. No constitutional amendment prohibiting cannabis was ever ratified, nor does Article I grant Congress the power to ban it. As James Madison – who as principal architect of the Constitution knew something about how it was meant to be interpreted – wrote:
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite.
So do not let Rep. Emerson tell you that your views are dangerous or un-conservative. She is the one who is willing to betray the supreme law of the land for the sake of her policy preference, and if the government cannot be limited by the constitution, the American people have no liberties left to conserve.
About John Payne
John is the campaign director for Show-Me Cannabis Regulation in Missouri and a member of the National Cannabis Coalition’s board of directors. He first became involved in cannabis law reform when he joined the Students for a Sensible Drug Policy chapter at Washington University in Saint Louis in 2001. After graduating from college, John taught high school social studies before embarking on a career as a writer. He worked for the Show-Me Institute, a think tank that advocates free market policies for the state of Missouri from 2009 to 2011, when he joined Show-Me Cannabis Regulation. His articles have appeared in Young American Revolution, The American Conservative, and Reason Magazine, as well as newspapers across Missouri.
This article was published with special permission from the National Cannabis Coalition