Missouri residents who support medical marijuana face multiple choices in November

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Even if a majority of Missouri residents support legalizing medical marijuana, as one recent poll indicates, the November election makes voting for the issue complicated.

The ballot will include three initiatives, including two constitutional amendments and one statutory amendment. While all legalize medical marijuana for some uses, they impose varying taxes on the drug that would support different programs and set up different bureaucratic ways of regulating it.

Amendment 2, which is supported by New Approach Missouri, and Amendment 3, supported by Springfield lawyer and physician Brad Bradshaw, are constitutional amendments, which means they could only be amended later by an additional public voting process.

The third initiative, known as Proposition C, or the Missourians for Patient Care Act, is a statutory amendment and if passed would create a new law. That means legislators could potentially alter it at a later date.

Each of the ballot initiatives would make it legal for Missouri residents to acquire licenses to grow, sell and manufacture marijuana and products made from marijuana for medical use at the state level, but each initiative contains certain particularities and would tax medical cannabis at different levels.

One source of confusion for voters has to do with which initiative is enacted if more than one passes on the ballot.

Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said that if either of the constitutional amendments pass, it would trump the statutory amendment, and if both pass, whichever one gets the most votes, becomes the amendment to the constitution.

Amendment 3: Find the Cures

Bradshaw’s constitutional amendment, or Amendment 3, known as the “Find the Cures” initiative, is largely self-funded and would create a Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute, a new government institution run by a nine-person board that Bradshaw himself would lead.

Amendment 3 states that the institute would engage in “developing cures and treatments for cancer and other incurable diseases or medical conditions.”

Bradshaw’s initiative imposes a 15 percent tax; the highest out of the three ballot initiatives. The proceeds would go to the new research institute that would be created.

The Secretary of State’s Office estimates that the initiative would produce $66 million in revenue from taxes and fees.

Bradshaw said he first learned of marijuana’s medicinal properties while attending medical school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the 1970s.

Marcus Leach, campaign manager for Amendment 3, said the amendment prohibits monopolies given that it allows for the issuing of 400 licenses statewide, and one person can only own up to 1 percent of the licenses. It also prohibits out of state investors, as only businesses that are majority owned by Missouri residents are eligible to partake.

Leach also said that the initiative’s tax is capped at 15 percent, which prohibits the tax from increasing by being stacked with state and county taxes.

Leach also said that Amendment 2 could face some issues at the ballot box given that it allows for certain patients to grow marijuana in their homes.

Amendment 2: New Approach Missouri

The New Approach Missouri initiative initially came up short in a 2016 petition drive by around 23 signatures, but this year got enough to make the cut and will appear first on the ballot given that it collected the most signatures, and turned them in early, New Approach Missouri spokesman, Jack Cardetti said.

The initiative would permit state licensed physicians to prescribe cannabis to their patients suffering from one of 10 specified conditions, which include: Parkinson’s, PTSD, chronic pain, epilepsy, glaucoma and cancer.

The decision to prescribe marijuana to patients “is going to be up to a state licensed physician, and we think that’s the right way to go. We believe that when it comes to medical treatment options, that’s a decision that ought to be between a doctor and their patients, not involving politicians or bureaucrats,” Cardetti said.

Under Amendment 2 the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services would assume the role of issuing cultivation, extraction and dispensary licenses.

Amendment 2 mandates that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has to approve at least 70 cultivation licenses. “That is a floor, not a ceiling,” Cardetti said. “Over time, they can increase the number of licenses.”

The New Approach Missouri initiative is estimated to generate $18 million in taxes and fees each year, would levy a 4 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, and the funds would help support veteran’s health care.

Amendment 2 is also the only one of the three ballot initiatives that allows certain patients who are already licensed to access medial marijuana dispensaries to become a “patient cultivator,” by way of a separate licensing process through the state, Cardetti said.

Proposition C: Missourians for Patient Care Act

Proposition C is a ballot initiative backed by Pelopidas LLC, a St. Louis-based lobbying firm best known for its work for businessman and major political donor Rex Sinquefield.

Proposition C, if passed, would regulate medical marijuana through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services as well as the division of alcohol and tobacco control within the Department of Public Safety, and Travis Brown, founder of Pelopidas, said.

In February, Pelopidas donated $33,000 to the Missourians for Patient Care Act campaign using the firm’s media arm, First Rule, which serves as, what Brown describes, the campaign’s “signature collections leader.”

The Missourians for Patient Care Act, which would impose the lowest tax out of the three initiatives, at 2 percent, would funnel those funds to pay for early childhood and public safety programs, drug rehabilitation and programs for veterans. The Secretary of State’s Office estimated the proposal would bring in $10 million in revenue annually.

Brown, who also led the signature-collection campaign for the Missourians for Patent Care Act, said that Proposition C affords a better framework to allow Missouri’s medical marijuana industry a chance to establish itself in comparison with the other two initiatives.

“When you have constitutional mandates, when you create new bureaucracies that no one has run or governed before, that always takes extra time and has the effect of slowing down access to medical treatment,” Brown said.

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit, horvitm@missouri.edu.

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