Missouri: Two Marijuana Proposals Competing For 2016 Ballot

MissouriLeafMap[HeraldTribune]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Two competing marijuana proposals are vying for the November 2016 ballot in Missouri, with advocates and some lawmakers pointing to the growing bipartisan support for medical marijuana.

The two proposals for constitutional amendments in Missouri are counting on the high level of support for medicinal cannabis, repors Jack Howland at the Missourian/. Rather than repeat the so-far unsuccessful attempts to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in Missouri, a push for medical marijuana is see as a more achievable goal.

The Missouri Legislature passed a CBD-only "medical marijuana law" in 2014, but it is restricted to cannabidiol and only for intractable epilepsy.

Under state law, a ballot initiative must gather at least 157,000 signatures by May from six of Missouri's eight Congressional districts.

New Approach Missouri

One of the efforts comes from a coalition called New Approach Missouri, which has the support of Show-Me Cannabis. The organization has filed two initiatives with the Missouri Secretary of State, both to allow state-licensed physicians to authorize marijuana for patients with serious illnesses. Revenue from the 4 percent pot tax, above state and local taxes, would go to veterans' services.

Doctors would be allowed to authorize marijuana for patients with chronic illnesses such ass cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. Marijuana could be smoked, used in capsules, and taken in oils.

According to New Approach Missouri, about 75 cultivation facilities could be licensed; qualifying patients would also be allowed to grow up to six plants at home.

Jack Cardetti, former spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon, is the campaign adviser for New Approach Missouri, with his political consulting firm Tightline Strategies. Cardetti said this proposal is the "more reasonable" of the two options, with additional funding going to veterans instead of to a new government program.

“What we really did in the first phase was look at which states did a really nice job implementing the program,” Cardetti said. “When we did that we really found an overarching theme: what is best for patients.”

Missouri Research

The second proposal, Missouri Research, is led by physician and attorney Brad Bradshaw, who's running in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor next year. His plan would legalize medicinal cannabis, impose a significant tax on it, and direct the money toward medical research.

The Bradshaw plan would use license pharmacists as dispensaries, with no home-growing and no cultivation centers. Marijuana would be taxed a whopping 75 percent at the point of sale, on top of the 10 percent wholesale tax.

Bradshaw estimates his plan could raise $45 million to $58 million a year for the state, not including what he said are possible profits from the medical research which would be funded with the proceeds.

Differences Emerge

“We think his heart is in the right place," Cardetti said of Bradshaw's proposal. "We just don’t think an 85 percent tax on cancer patients and others with debilitating illnesses is necessarily a patient-centered plan,” he said. “There also isn’t a quicker way to make a popular bipartisan issue less attractive than slapping a big tax on it.”

Bradshaw has voiced concerns about the New Approach Missouri campaign as well, saying it will put a lot of money in the pockets of the rich backers of the Show-Me Cannabis organization. He also thinks the provision allowing certain patients to grow pot could lead to illegal distribution.

Graphic: Herald Tribune