Marijuana: Uncertain medicine
Missouri voters decide Tuesday if their state becomes the 32nd to legalize medical marijuana for broad use.
Missouri, like most other states that prohibit marijuana, currently allows for limited possession of cannabis oil, as long as it has little to no THC, the ingredient that causes the “high” that recreational drug users crave.
Only about 150 people are currently registered for that program, but a trio of ballot measures could open access to a much wider range of cannabis products to a much larger number of people.
But with so many measures on the ballot, the outcome is complicated. Two of the measures are constitutional amendments, and the third would change state law. If both amendments pass, the one with more votes wins. If the change to state law passes and either amendment passes — or all three pass — the constitutional amendment would supersede state law, but there might be a court battle to see if they can co-exist.
Here are the three questions on the ballot:
▪ Amendment 2, or the Medical Marijuana and Veteran Healthcare Services Initiative, would add the right to access medical marijuana to the state constitution. It would require the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to start accepting applications from potential consumers by June and potential dispensary owners by August. The department would also have to set limits for purchase (but no less than four ounces a month) and possession. Marijuana sales would be taxed at 4 percent, with proceeds going to fund services for military veterans. Consumers would need a note from their doctor confirming they have a qualifying medical condition to get a marijuana card. The amendment lists several specific qualifying conditions, but is also broad enough that nearly anything that a licensed doctor deems a qualifying condition could become one. This is the only measure of the three that explicitly allows users to grow their own marijuana (up to six flowering plants).
▪ Amendment 3, or the Medical Marijuana and Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute Initiative, is another proposed change to the state constitution. It would allow people with qualifying conditions to buy marijuana from dispensaries and it would establish a medical marijuana research facility funded through a 15 percent tax on marijuana sales. The institute would be led, at least temporarily, by Springfield physician and lawyer Brad Bradshaw, who has bankrolled much of the campaign to pass the amendment. The amendment lists 10 specific qualifying conditions but allows for more to be added at the research institute’s discretion. Half the proceeds from any treatments developed by the institute would go to fund its operations. The other half would go to income tax refunds, transportation projects, public education, medical care and the state employee retirement fund.
▪ Proposition C, or the Medical Marijuana and Veterans Healthcare Services, Education, Drug Treatment, and Public Safety Initiative, is like Amendment 2 except it’s a state law, so it could be changed by the General Assembly. It also has a slightly different tax rate (2.5 percent), slightly different purchase and possession limits, and doesn’t allow users to grow their own.
The state’s major physician groups oppose all three measures. They say that although some components of cannabis may have medical benefits, they should be taken in products tested by the Food and Drug Administration with standards dosages and potency. They also say cannabis can be harmful, especially for the brain development of younger people.
But marijuana ballot measures have passed easily in other states lately. Oklahoma voters became the latest to legalize medical marijuana in June. Medical marijuana is also on the ballot in Utah Tuesday, while voters in Michigan and North Dakota will be deciding whether to legalize it for recreational use.
Check back later Tuesday night for election results.