The Missouri marijuana conundrum: Voters face three medical marijuana measures on the ballot come November
Three medical marijuana measures—two state constitutional amendments and one statutory initiative—qualified for the ballot in Missouri for the general election on November 6. All three measures would legalize medical marijuana in Missouri but differ regarding implementation, taxation, and revenue allocation.
Voters in Missouri face a bit of a conundrum: on which measure to vote yes. Meanwhile, state politicians and local municipalities face an even more serious quandary: what happens if all three measures pass?
While a political Thunderdome manner of settling which measure will emerge victoriously certainly seems like the most entertaining option, past election results regarding tobacco initiatives in Missouri sets precedent for this exact election situation.
We have issued Certificates of Sufficiency to five initiative petitions, signifying each has met the minimum number of signatures to appear on the November ballot. Any legal challenge must be filed within 10 days. Read details of each here:https://t.co/z0Jqe7Qg6H pic.twitter.com/nKk904IMDo
— Missouri SOS Office (@MissouriSOS) August 2, 2018
What are the different measures?
On August 2, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced via Twitter that three initiative petitions addressing medical marijuana met the state’s minimum number of signatures required to appear on the general election ballot in November.
As of this election year, Missouri has failed to develop a legal marijuana program, medicinal or recreational. All of the measures propose the provision of legal protections to patients using medical marijuana and establish regulated systems of cannabis production, processing, and revenue taxation. But the devil, or in this case tiny variations on the same issue, is in the details.
Missouri Amendment 2, also known as the Medical Marijuana and Veteran Healthcare Services Initiative and sponsored by New Approach Missouri, would legalize marijuana for medical purposes, creates a 4 percent sales tax on medicinal marijuana products, and earmarks the taxation revenue for healthcare services for veterans.
Amendment 2 would allow state-licensed physicians to recommend marijuana use for patients suffering from specific qualifying medical conditions. Regarding pot-possession, patients may grow six flowering plants in their homes and purchase up to four ounces from dispensaries, per month.
Amendment 3, the amendment proposed by Find the Cures, would also allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for qualifying medical conditions and establishes regulations and licensing procedures for marijuana businesses. Where the two amendments differ is how much to tax and how that money made from taxation revenue should be spent.
Amendment 3 proposes a 15 percent sales tax on marijuana as well as taxation on the wholesale of marijuana flowers and leaves per dry-weight ounce to licensed facilities. The funds from these taxes will be utilized to fund a state research institute to research developing cures and treatments for cancer and other incurable diseases and medical conditions.
Proposition C, also known as the Missouri Patient Care Act, is backed by the Missourians for Patient Care, allows for the personal use and possession of medicinal marijuana with written certification by a physician for qualifying medical conditions.
The proposition would impose a 2 percent sales tax on medical marijuana and would allocate that revenue to various civil needs projects such as drug treatment, early childhood education, and the provision of public safety for cities with medical marijuana facilities.
With all of these measures, proposing very similar programs, the success or failure of any of the ballot measures may come down to the cost of implementation, how much the sales tax will be, and for what the sales tax will be used.
Who supports the measures?
New Approach Missouri, a political action committee, supports Amendment 2. The Epilepsy Foundation of Missouri and Kansas, NORML, the MPP, and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who also endorses Proposition C, have all registered their support for Amendment 2.
Political Director for NORML, Justin Strekal, announced the group’s support of Amendment 2 on the NORML Blog. Strekal stated that Amendment 2 is “A patient-centered proposal that puts power in the hands of state-licensed physicians and their patients, not politicians or bureaucrats.”
He continued: “Passage of Amendment 2 will create a robust statewide system for production and sale of medical cannabis. Of the three proposals on the ballot this fall, we believe that Amendment 2 is the clear choice for voters.”
Amendment 3 is the brainchild of Find the Cures, a political action committee as well. While Amendment 3 has received no official opposition from other organizations or political action committees, it also hasn’t received any major support. FTC’s top financial contributor, Brad Bradshaw, a physician and author of Amendment 3, argues that the measure will help find a cure for cancer.
In an interview for a local newspaper, Bradshaw asked voters to “Imagine going back to when alcohol was legalized, and these people are making a fortune. Putting a tax on [medical marijuana] to find a cure for cancer—and we can find a cure for cancer—I think that is not unreasonable.”
Finally, the political action committee leading the campaign for Proposition C is Missourians for Patient Care. Like both of the amendment measures, Proposition C has no registered opponents; however, Proposition C also only has one major endorsement.
Sen. McCaskill, who also endorsed Amendment 2, is Proposition C’s sole registered endorsement. Travis H. Brown, the signature collection leader for MPC, said in a statement that the law might need to be tweaked over time.
“It is highly doubtful that a medical product with so much diversity and potential will not require some technical corrections to its laws, permits, and practices over the next generation,” he said. “A general law that can be improved by state and local authorities is especially timely to have before voters ahead of other sweeping constitutional restrictions for large bureaucracies.”
— New Approach MO (@NewApproachMO) May 4, 2018
Who is financing the three campaigns?
In terms of campaign fundraising, September 30 is the deadline for Missouri’s contribution quarter-closure. Final reports on campaign contributions won’t be finalized until October 15; however, Ballotpedia has an accurate reporting of fundraising totals through the end of July.
Thus far, NAM has raised $1,056,170.87 for Amendment 2. FTC has raised $1,556,705, of which $1,552,695 (99.99 percent) was donated by Dr. Bradshaw, for Amendment 3. Finally, MPC has raised $1,388,609.58. While MPC has not listed any registered support, they have received financial contributions from First Rule and the Relax PAC.
Financially, Amendment 3 is leading by a half-million dollars. However, 99.99 percent of that money comes from the measure’s author. Financial contributions, while incredibly important, do not always guarantee political support. Thus far, only Amendment 2 has received official registered support from multiple organizations.
— Find The Cures (@FindTheCuresMO) August 20, 2018
What happens if all three pass?
Regardless of registered support or opposition, Missouri voters will have three different marijuana measures on the state ballot come November. Each measure will legalize medicinal marijuana, but each will tax and implement the program differently.
So what happens if voters decide to throw caution to the wind and just vote yes on all three? Will lobbyists supporting each measure have to fight to the death in Missouri’s first-ever medical marijuana hunger games?
As entertaining as that might be, there is legal precedent for this type of situation. According to the Missouri Revised Statutes, Missouri’s state constitution, if two conflicting constitutional amendments (such as Amendment 2 and Amendment 3) are approved by state voters, the one receiving the most affirmative vote wins.
What happens if one of the Amendments passes and Proposition C passes as well? Proposition C is a state statute, not a constitutional amendment. There is no state law addressing what happens when a voter-approved statute (like Proposition C) and a constitutional amendment (like Amendment 2 or Amendment 3) are both approved by the voters.
If both Proposition C and one of the Amendments pass on November 6, the fate of both measures will be in question. In 2016, there was a similar issue regarding tobacco tax initiatives in Missouri. The state Attorney General’s Office stated at that time that the issue would need to be decided in court.
If one of the Amendments and Proposition C passes as well, Missouri will most likely face a medical marijuana measure showdown in a court of law in the coming years.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons stated that he’s not focused on the medical marijuana initiatives. While he believes the issue of medical marijuana has a “good chance of passing, voters will face a tough choice in deciding which initiatives to support or oppose.”