Much ado about medical marijuana

caduceus-2789653_640Medical marijuana is apparently an idea whose time has come to Missouri. Or, at least, enough people are into the idea that we have not one, not two, but three medical marijuana questions on the ballot. What does that mean? What happens if they all pass? Let’s take a look:

  1. There are two constitutional amendments on the ballot (Amendments 2 and 3), and one legislative measure (Proposition C). All three got there by initiative petition, which means that at least 160,000 registered voters in Missouri thought that Amendments 2 and 3 were worth a look, and at least 100,000 were willing to sign on for Proposition C.
  2. These measures are mutually exclusive. We might pass more than one, but since they all lay out different strategies for doing the same thing, only one can take effect. Per the state constitution (Article 3, Section 51), “When conflicting measures are approved at the same election the one receiving the largest affirmative vote shall prevail.” So whichever measure gets the most YES votes should, theoretically, become law.*
  3. If Proposition C goes into effect, it will essentially create a law that can be modified by the legislature and the governor. Given that the Missouri legislature has not historically been all that keen on medical marijuana, there’s some possibility that even if Proposition C passes, what actually happens will not look much like the proposition approved by the voters. Missouri would then find itself in a similar position to Oklahoma, where voters approved a measure that the legislature felt was too permissive and/or inadequately defined, and pushed back. An amendment to the state constitution would be more likely to hold up to legislative challenge – the legislature would have to pass an amendment, and then send it back to the voters for approval.

So, if you completely hate the idea of medical marijuana, your voting strategy is fairly straightforward here. You would need all three measures to fail, and accordingly vote NO on all of them. But, if you would rather that Missouri adopt a medical marijuana policy of some kind, your decision could be more complicated. Remember, voters can pass all of these measures, but only the one with the most YES votes takes effect.

Here’s a summary of your options, and a link to the full text of each measure:

Amendment 2 Allows marijuana to be prescribed for 9 listed conditions, and others at doctors’ discretion. Taxes marijuana sales at 4%, with revenue used to cover veterans’ services. Allows patients to grow up to 6 plants for personal use. Allows patients up to 4 ounces of dried marijuana per month, and to hold up to a 2 months’ supply. Local governments would not be able to ban marijuana dispensaries, but could regulate their location. This measure is supported by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, NORML, Drug Policy Action, Our Revolution, and the Epilepsy Foundation of Missouri and Kansas. It is opposed by the Missouri State Medical Association (and presumably by Brad Bradshaw, who filed a lawsuit to stop it gaining ballot access).

Amendment 3Creates a research board, led by Springfield physician and attorney Brad Bradshaw. Allows marijuana to be prescribed for 10 listed conditions, and others at the discretion of the research board. Taxes marijuana sales at 15%, with revenue used to fund the research board, which would be expected to find cures for various diseases and conditions, and use those cures to generate additional revenue for the state. Does not address whether or not patients could grow marijuana. Allows patients up to 3 ounces of dried marijuana per month, with no specified limit on how many months’ supply a patient might have at a time. Local governments could ban dispensaries within their limits. This measure is opposed by the Missouri State Medical Association and the Missouri Catholic Conference.

Proposition CAllows marijuana to be prescribed for 9 listed conditions, and others at doctors’ discretion. Taxes marijuana sales at 2%, with revenue used for veterans’ services, drug treatment and education, and law enforcement. Prohibits patients from growing marijuana. Allows patients up to 2.5 ounces of dried cannabis flower** or equivalent per two weeks, and to hold up to a 60 day supply at once. Local governments could ban dispensaries within their limits. This measure is supported by Senator McCaskill, and opposed by the Missouri State Medical Association.

 

* We all know that how things should go is not always how they do go, right? We’ve not actually tested this rule, as far as I can tell. In 2016, there were two measures on the ballot that raised the state tax on tobacco products by different amounts, and the Attorney General’s office was of the opinion that if they both passed, the matter would have to go to court to be decided. As it turned out, though, voters didn’t pass either one of them, so we didn’t get to find out what would have happened next.

** Confession: Your humble correspondent does not know whether “dried cannabis flower” is the same thing as “dried marijuana” or not. I’m using the same language that is in the measure in case it matters.

 

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