Policy

Ballot Issue Breakdown: Missouri Cannabis Legalization Measures

In the 2018 midterm elections, voters in four states, including Missouri, will be faced with ballot measures to allow for the prescription and possession of medical cannabis. The ballot in Missouri for medical cannabis legalization is especially unique as three separate initiatives will be presented to voters: Missouri Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C. While they share a common goal, each initiative bears a different perspective on how the legalization of medical cannabis should be implemented in the state.

Cannabis has a complex legal history in the United States. Early colonists cultivated hemp as a common cash crop, and even into the early 1900s, it was frequently used in various medical preparations. Around this time, the southern states began to see an influx of Mexican immigrants who brought with them the custom of smoking cannabis, or as they called it: “marihuana”. Journalists, media figures, and politicians stoked public fear of these new immigrants and their use of marihuana, despite the already widespread use of the more familiar medicinal term cannabis. In 1937, the federal Marihuana Tax Act placed heavy fines on the sale of medical cannabis, but cannabis was not federally prohibited until the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. In 1995, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. Since then, 29 additional states have passed their own laws allowing for the use of medical cannabis. Despite cannabis’s status as a federal Schedule I drug, the Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment, passed in 2014, prohibits the use of Justice Department funds to interfere in the legalization of state medical cannabis laws.

Despite the growing acceptance of the medical use of cannabis, it is still challenging for scientists to conduct experiments on therapeutic properties or safety of the drug due to its federal Schedule I classification and limited supply for use in research. However, a growing body of research demonstrates potential therapeutic uses of cannabis for chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and anorexia. Meanwhile, cannabis can also be detrimental to healthy development when used by children and young adults, and with prolonged use it can become addictive. The scientific advantages and risks of cannabis legalization must be taken into consideration as voters head to the polls.

This November, Missourians will have two major decisions to make in the voting booth: (1) should medical cannabis be legalized, and (2) how should the implementation of cannabis legalization be managed by the state? With three competing ballot measures, listed below are some helpful explanations of each proposal on the Missouri ballot regarding medical cannabis.

Missouri Amendment 2, Medical Marijuana and Veteran Healthcare Services Initiative

Amendment 2 is an initiated constitutional amendment, meaning that it is a constitutional amendment directly proposed and petitioned for by registered voters in Missouri. A “Yes” vote for Amendment 2 would be mean:

  • Legalization of medical cannabis prescribed by a licensed physician for nine qualifying and additional conditions. Patients would be restricted in the amount of cannabis they may possess at a time.
  • Patients would be allowed to grow limited cannabis in their homes.
  • A 4% tax on medical cannabis sales would be used to fund veteran healthcare and services.
  • The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services would manage medical cannabis regulation in the state.

This amendment is spearheaded by New Approach Missouri (NAM), a political action committee which aims to legalize medical cannabis in the state. Major financial donors include Drug Policy Action and Belleau Farms, with an endorsement by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Supporters include U.S. senator Claire McCaskill (D), the Epilepsy Foundation of Missouri and Kansas, Our Revolution, and the chairman of the Missouri Association of Veterans’ Organizations Tom Mundell. No registered groups oppose the measure, although the backer of Amendment 3 Dr. Brad Bradshaw filed a lawsuit claiming that NAM violated the legal requirements for gathering petition signatures. Dr. Bradshaw’s case was dismissed as the court found that it “did not have standing to challenge how signatures were gathered”.

Missouri Amendment 3, Medical Marijuana and Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute Initiative

Amendment 3 is also an initiated constitutional amendment. A “Yes” vote for Amendment 3 would be in support of:

  • Legalization of medical cannabis. Patients would be restricted in the amount of cannabis they may possess at a time.
  • A 15% sales tax on medical cannabis would fund a Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute (BRDDI) which would be managed by the initiative’s proponent Brad Bradshaw and a board of nine members selected by Dr. Bradshaw.

This amendment’s main proponent, Dr. Brad Bradshaw, is a Springfield, MO physician turned personal injury attorney. He funded this campaign with personal funds through his campaign committee Find the Cures. Dr. Bradshaw’s BRDDI would be tasked with the development of cures and treatments for cancer and additional unspecified uncurable diseases. Dr. Bradshaw has no history in research or research management and no publicly available plans for how the BRDDI will investigate disease cures. Amendment 3 has no other financial contributors or endorsements and no organized opposition.

Missouri Proposition C, Medical Marijuana and Veterans Healthcare Services, Education, Drug Treatment, and Public Safety Initiative

Proposition C is an initiated state statute, meaning that it is a potential state law proposed by petition. A “Yes” vote for Proposition C would be in support of:

  • Legalization of medical cannabis prescribed by a licensed physician for nine qualifying and additional conditions. Patients would be restricted in the amount of cannabis they may possess at a time.
  • A 2% sales tax on medical cannabis would be used to fund veteran healthcare and services.
  • Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control would manage medical cannabis regulation in the state.

This proposition is proposed by the Missourians for Patient Care PAC and is endorsed by U.S. senator Claire McCaskill (D). Major donors to Missourians for Patient Care include First Rule and the Relax PAC. However, many donors to Missouri for Patient Care are not disclosed, leading some to question the motivation and sources used to fund this proposal. The campaign committee Citizens for SAFE Medicine organized in opposition to Proposition C. The backer of Amendment 3, Brad Bradshaw, filed a lawsuit claiming that petition signatures collected for Proposition C violated legal requirements, but Dr. Bradshaw withdrew his case shortly after its submission.

Hannah Frye

Director of Policy and Advocacy

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