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Right to farm doesn’t include pot, court says

A man convicted of growing pot said his “right to farm” under the Missouri Constitution had been violated. On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court nipped the argument in the bud.

Mark Shanklin was arrested in 2015 after police found a marijuana-growing operation in his St. Louis house. He was convicted, but not before arguing that state laws that prohibit the growing of marijuana and cannabis violate the right to farm.

Voters added the provision to the state constitution in 2014. The amendment protects agriculture as a “vital sector” of Missouri’s economy because it “provides food, energy, health benefits, and security.” Shanklin argued that cannabis plants are used as a source of food, medicine, and commercial products, and that Missouri recognizes the medicinal value of the substance in a limited way.

But Chief Justice Zel M. Fischer, writing for a unanimous court, said nothing in the language of the amendment indicated the voters meant to overturn decades-old drug laws.

“Article I, section 35 protects the right to engage in lawful farming and ranching practices,” Fischer wrote. “It does not create a new constitutional right to engage in the illegal drug trade.”

Because the case involved a constitutional issue, Shanklin’s appeal went straight to the Supreme Court. The case was considered on the written briefs last month.

The case is State v. Shanklin, SC96008.

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