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Which Medical Marijuana Law Will Missouri Get?

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Which Medical Marijuana Law Will Missouri Get?

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Twenty years ago, following the success of California’s Compassionate Use Act, three states – Oregon, Washington, and Alaska – passed medical marijuana initiatives placed on the ballot.

This year, we could have three medical marijuana initiatives on one state’s ballot alone.

Missouri was poised to join nine other states with marijuana reform initiatives on the ballot in 2016. However, the effort put forth by the longtime marijuana activists with New Approach Missouri fell just 23 signatures short of ballot requirements.

New Approach Missouri is back and on Friday, activists dropped off scores of boxes containing over 370,000 signatures for validation. They seek to add medical marijuana to the state’s constitution and require over 168,000 valid signatures to make the ballot.

This time around, though, there are other groups trying to bring cannabis relief to sick and disabled Missourians,

Find the Cure is a group that is also proposing a constitutional amendment for medical marijuana. It is backed by Brad Bradshaw, a Democratic attorney and physician who in 2016 announced and then canceled his run for lieutenant governor. The over $1.5 million backing the group comes from Bradshaw alone.

A spokesperson for Find the Cure tells the Capital Gazette that they have verified over 300,000 signatures they turned in Friday for their initiative.

A third group, Missourians for Patient Care, is attempting to place medical marijuana on the ballot as a statute rather than an amendment. The upside is a lower signature requirement, while the downside is the freedom of the legislature to significantly modify a statute compared to an amendment.

That group also turned in signatures Friday, but I’ve found no reports yet on their signature count.

Find the Cure leads the pack when it comes to the fundraising, but has a little over $40,000 of it left. Meanwhile, New Approach Missouri has banked almost $1 million, with about $125,000 still on-hand for the campaign. About a fourth of New Approach Missouri’s donations come from Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. Missourians for Patient care raised over a half-million, but has virtually none of it left.

While all three measures seek to legalize medical marijuana, there are a few differences between them all.

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Since New Approach Missouri is the only one of the three to legalize the cultivation of cannabis plants by medical marijuana patients in their own homes, it is easy for me to endorse its initiative over the other two. I also prefer New Approach establishing a constitutional amendment, rather than Patient Care’s statutory language that can be amended or even reversed by the legislature.

However, there are some other considerations (detailed in the table above for Patrons of The Marijuana Agenda) that make the New Approach Missouri the superior constitutional amendment to Find the Cure’s offering, namely:

  • more qualifying conditions;
  • greater possession and purchase limits;
  • allowing use of medical marijuana to replace opiates;
  • lower patient registry costs;
  • lower medical marijuana taxation;
  • lower business licensing costs;
  • greater number of business licenses;
  • shorter residency requirements for licensing;
  • greater canopy limits for commercial cultivation;
  • potential for public consumption areas for patients; and
  • licensure handled through existing Dept. of Health & Senior Services.

Furthermore, there are aspects of the Find the Cure initiative that lose my support, including:

  • limiting physicians on how many medical marijuana recommendations they write;
  • taxing medical marijuana by weight and by price;
  • allowing localities to ban medical marijuana licensees for five years;
  • banning outdoor commercial cultivation; and
  • dispersing all tax revenue from medical marijuana to a newly-created biomedical research board.

Presuming they receive a majority of the vote, whichever of the two constitutional amendments with the highest vote total would become law. The statutory initiative of Missourians for Patient Care can only go into effect if it has a majority vote and the other two initiatives do not.

Further complicating the matter is the passage in the Missouri House of a medical marijuana bill that could become law prior to the November election. That bill (as it was passed in the House) would be much more restrictive than any of the three initiatives. For instance, it would only allow for smokeless forms of medical cannabis, be subject to a smaller set of qualifying conditions, and only if the patient has exhausted all other manner of treatment.

This “medicine of last resort” bill is worrisome for the effect its passage might have on the support for any of the citizen-proposed initiatives. While polls consistently show strong majority support for medical marijuana in Missouri, some fear that the margin of support could be eroded if voters feel like the legislature already solved the medical marijuana issue. The Republican-dominated Missouri Assembly may feel like undercutting medical marijuana initiative support is politically beneficial as well by dampening young and progressive voter turnout in November.

Still, no matter how you evaluate these measures, it seems one thing is for certain: Missouri will become the next medical marijuana state in America.

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