Free to Farm in Missouri

Sometimes you get more than what you ask for. After a hearing before the Missouri Supreme Court (tomorrow), we’ll find out if that’s the case with the Missouri Constitution’s Right to Farm Amendment and a unique argument that this legalizes the “farming” of marijuana plants.

Maybe you’re like me: while you love getting to eat three or so times a day, you didn’t know our Constitution had a Right to Farm Amendment. I sure didn’t know. Funny that we need an amendment to confirm such a basic liberty. If you’re not free grow food, in what sense are you free? Sorry, I don’t want to get derailed; that’s a topic for another post.

Back to marijuana. Mark Shanklin argues on November 7 before the Missouri Supreme Court that the Missouri Constitution now invalidates all other lesser Missouri laws making it illegal to grow marijuana.

The basic argument is easy to understand: If a higher level law (say our State’s own constitution) says something that a lower level law contradicts, the lower level law’s contradictory application is invalidated.

If the constitution says wearing red hats is just fine, then a criminal statute criminalizing the wearing of red hats is invalid. Easy, right?

I don’t have time now to delve into the technicalities of the arguments made, but the two levels of lower courts in Shanklin’s case (trial level and court of appeals) have disagreed with him. And no wonder. Marijuana cultivation has been considered illegal for quite a while now, so if you believe in an “original meaning” approach to legal interpretation, I don’t see how you say “farming/agricultural/ranching” includes activity clearly understood to be illegal during the era of the passing of the amendment. You don’t get go back to the pre-drug-war era and decide the meaning of words then. In an absolute sense, growing marijuana could be seen as “farming” except that the very possession of a marijuana plant in Missouri is illegal. If the product you are “farming” becomes illegal to possess the instant the “farming” operation ends and some other operation begins, then it’s hard to argue the constitutional amendment applies to farming that particular product.

Well, the Supreme Court hears the argument tomorrow, but I doubt we’ll get a decision for several weeks or even months.

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Posted in appeals, Constitutional Law, criminal defense, criminal law, Liberty, politics, Uncategorized
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