In the Missouri constitution, there is an amendment that protects farmers, ranchers and their practices. But the way the amendment is worded seems just vague enough to protect weed farmers. Can this be right? Did the passing of the Right To Farm amendment undermine Missouri’s prohibition on pot?
The Right To Farm Amendment
In 2014, voters in Missouri passed the “Right To Farm” amendment to their state constitution. Basically, this amendment was created to protect the rights of farmers and ranchers in the state. The amendment reads:
That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.
Seems pretty standard and innocuous, right? After all, who doesn’t want to promote and protect farmers?
Well, one such farmer and his lawyer are using this “Right to Farm” amendment as a legal defense. For growing cannabis. Here’s the situation.
Mark Shanklin’s Green Thumb
In 2015, police officers arrested Mark Shanklin in his home in St. Louis, Missouri. His crime? Growing cannabis. Around 300 potted pot plants, by Shanklin’s own admission. Yup, Shanklin is freely admitting to his crimes. If you can even call growing a plant with proven health benefits a crime. And this is exactly the crux of his defense.
Shanklin and his lawyer argued that the Right to Farm Amendment undermines Missouri’s prohibition of cannabis. Shanklin was so confident that he waived his right to a trial by a jury last year. Instead, he elected to have a bench trial with the St. Louis City Circuit Judge.
Judge Robert H. Dierker, Jr. found him guilty of two counts of possession with intent to distribute, which is a felony. Additionally, officials hit Shanklin with a misdemeanor charge related to drug paraphernalia. He faces four months in prison and also five years probation.
The state does not recognize cannabis as an agricultural crop. Nor does the state recognize Shanklin as a farmer. According to the judge, this amendment in the Missouri constitution only protects legal crops and farming practices.
But he and his lawyer, Anthony Muhlenkamp, will continue the fight. They plan to take an appeal all the way to the top: Missouri’s Supreme Court. Wouldn’t moving to a legal state just be easier?
Final Hit: Does The Missouri Constitution Actually Protect Pot Farmers?
Mark Shanklin is not the first Missouran to try to wield the Missouri constitution in his favor regarding cannabis growing. Only a few months before his arrest, his fellow state resident, Lisa Loesch and her attorney, tried to get her case dismissed after she had been convicted for growing nine weed plants in her basement. They were unsuccessful in their endeavor.
So for the time being, it looks like the Missouri Constitution does not protect cannabis growers. While there has not been a Missouri Supreme Court decision on the matter, it doesn’t look good for Shanklin. There is currently no legal precedence in the state to support his argument that the state’s constitution would defend his green thumb.