Three medical marijuana laws up for vote

Three+medical+marijuana+laws+up+for+vote

Gloria Lloyd
News Editor
glorialloyd@callnewspapers.com 

Missourians who want to legalize medical marijuana have three opportunities next week with three separate measures on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Voters can weigh in on two constitutional amendments and one ballot measure, all of which would legalize marijuana for medical purposes and tax it to varying degrees for different purposes.

Amendment 2 is an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would legalize medical marijuana but add a 4-percent tax on its sale at dispensaries that would raise $18 million a year toward veterans’ health programs, including veterans’ homes.

Another $6 million would go to local cities for any increased costs associated with open dispensaries.

Amendment 3 would also legalize medical marijuana with a 15-percent sales tax.

It was 99-percent funded by Springfield attorney and physician Brad Bradshaw, whose name would be written into the Constitution as the head and chairman of the board of a new “biomedical research and drug development” institute searching for cures for diseases like cancer.

Bradshaw would appoint all the institute’s board members and oversee the $66 million that would come in from the tax annually.

The League of Women Voters supports the legalization of medical marijuana but is “concerned” about Amendment 3, in which marijuana “revenue from the enterprise will be overseen by a private, non-elected individual.”

Proposition C is most similar in spirit to Amendment 2, but it is different from both the other measures because it will not write marijuana into the Missouri Constitution.

It would legalize medical marijuana with a 2-percent sales tax that would cover annual costs of $10 million. One half of 1 percent of the tax, or $50,000, would go to veterans’ services, drug treatment, early childhood education and the state treasurer, along with some funds going to public safety for cities with marijuana facilities.

The most compelling reason to choose Amendment 2 over Prop C is that C could be repealed by the Missouri Legislature next year, just as lawmakers overturned the voters’ will after the passage of a ban on puppy mills in 2012, said Bonnie Boime of New Approach Missouri, the campaign committee behind Amendment 2, at a League of Women Voters forum in Manchester last month.

Missouri would be the 31st state to legalize medical marijuana. States where it’s been legalized for medical purposes have seen a double-digit reduction in opiate overdoses.

“No person has ever died from a marijuana overdose,” Boime said.

That is an important distinction between marijuana and opioids or even alcohol, which have claimed many victims.

“If somebody goes down the wrong path with medical marijuana, they will survive to change their life,” Boime said.

If all three pass, the measure with the most votes wins, with the amendments possibly trumping Prop C.

Amendment 2 is endorsed by a long list of groups, including the Missouri Epilepsy Foundation.

“It’s truly a nonpartisan issue, and we believe that Missouri patients deserve the right to have access to this therapy,” Boime said. “We look forward to giving them relief after the election.”

Amendment 3 has no endorsements so far beyond its funder, Brad Bradshaw – the man one Springfield columnist dubbed “the man who would be medical marijuana king of Missouri.”

Bradshaw wrote his amendment himself, and he intentionally wrote himself in to the amendment to keep state legislators out.