Medical Marijuana in Missouri: A Tale of Three Ballot Initiatives

Medical Marijuana in Missouri: A Tale of Three Ballot Initiatives

A look at the three legalization measures voters will face in the November election.

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October 8, 2018
Melissa Schiller

Missouri voters have three options to legalize medical marijuana during November’s midterm election: two constitutional amendments and one statutory amendment.

While all three measures achieve the same overall goal of legalizing medical cannabis, each imposes varying taxes and ways to regulate the program.

The constitutional amendments—Amendment 2 and Amendment 3—could only be changed later through a public vote, while the statutory amendment—Proposition C—would create a new law that could be altered by state legislators.

In early May, Amendment 2 became the first initiative to qualify for the ballot, when its campaign committee, New Approach Missouri, submitted 370,000 signatures—more than double the number required to qualify for the ballot. The medical marijuana program would be regulated and licensed by the Missouri Department of Health, and the proposal would allow state-licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with specified conditions, including cancer, epilepsy and PTSD. The measure would also levy a four percent sales tax to fund veterans’ medical care in the state.

“We’re a coalition of patients, doctors and veterans with one simple goal, and that’s to make Missouri the 31st state that allows for medical marijuana,” Jack Cardetti, spokesperson for New Approach Missouri, told Cannabis Business Times.

Amendment 3 (also called the “Find the Cures” initiative) is the other constitutional amendment, supported by Springfield lawyer and physician Brad Bradshaw. The measure is largely self-funded and would create a Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute—a new government institution run by a nine-person board appointed by Bradshaw, according to a Columbia Missourian report. The institute would help develop treatments and cures for cancer and other incurable medical conditions, and a 15 percent sales tax would be imposed on medical marijuana to fund the institute.

Prop. C, the Missourians for Patient Care Act, is the statutory amendment, backed by a St. Louis-based lobbying firm. The measure would allow the Missouri Department of Health to regulate medical marijuana alongside the Department of Public Safety’s division of alcohol and tobacco control. It would also impose a 2 percent sales tax on medical marijuana, which would fund early childhood and public safety programs, drug rehabilitation and veterans’ programs, the Columbia Missourian reported.

If either of the constitutional amendments pass, it will trump the statutory amendment, and if both constitutional amendments pass, the one with the most “yes” votes will essentially win.

“We fundamentally come from different places in putting these initiatives together,” Cardetti said. “Our goal is to make this the best medical marijuana program for patients. We believe that patients ought to be able to work with their doctors to determine the appropriate treatment option. For many patients, medical marijuana will be an appropriate treatment option. For others, it won’t be. But right now, Missourians don’t even have the luxury of having that conversation with their doctor. So, ours is really centered around patients and veterans.”

New Approach Missouri does not want lawmakers to significantly alter a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative in the next legislative session, which is why they approached the issue with a constitutional amendment, Cardetti added. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen in many states that have passed statutory measures on the ballot, lawmakers coming right back and really weakening the law and making it less effective. We don’t want that to happen here.”

In August, Bradshaw filed lawsuits in an attempt to disqualify Amendment 2 and Prop. C from the ballot. The litigation alleged that the Missourians for Patient Care initiative failed to gather enough signatures, while New Approach Missouri broke the law while circulating its petition, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report.

The lawsuits were dismissed in early September, and Sept. 25 was the deadline to finalize the ballot, Cardetti said.

“And quite frankly, they were frivolous lawsuits,” he added. “For instance, when he sued Amendment 2 to knock us off the ballot, at circuit court, his lawsuit was dismissed because it lacked even enough facts to go to trial.” 

Amendment 2 has picked up support from the Missouri Epilepsy Foundation and The St. Louis American, as well as The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

“MPP is encouraging voters to support Amendment 2, and it has not taken a position for or against the other two initiatives,” Mason Tvert, MPP’s spokesperson, told Cannabis Business Times. “To ensure the state passes at least one measure and patients receive access to medical cannabis as soon as possible, we encourage anyone who is unsure about which measure to support to vote ‘yes’ on all three rather than voting ‘no’ or not voting on all three.”

Overall, Cardetti is hopeful that Amendment 2 will pass next month. “We’re excited about the campaign,” he said. “It has a lot of support here.”

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