medical marijuana

3 medical marijuana proposals on MO ballot: Compare and contrast

If you’re voting in Missouri on Nov. 6, 2018—and you are, aren’t you?—you’re going to find:  not one, not two, but three proposals pertaining to legalizing medical marijuana. If you haven’t thought about them before you get to your polling place, you’re probably going to find them confusing. Each one has a different focus and a different tax rate attached. And you’ll have the opportunity to vote on all three of them. [Of course, you can vote on just one or two, or all three—or none of them, and your ballot will still count.]

So, how do you decide which ones to vote for, and which to vote against? Thanks to Nancy Miller, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan St. Louis, you can compare and contrast them. Miller has read each bill closely and has created a spreadsheet analysis of the three bills, spelling out what they propose to do, the tax level associated with each, the implications of each proposal, and the names of groups and individuals sponsoring them.

Having read her analysis, I’ve come to the conclusion that all three are flawed in their own way. But I’ve also come to the conclusion that, in the interest of getting the benefits of medical marijuana into mainstream medical practice in Missouri, we need to find one proposal that makes sense and at least opens the door to 21st Century medical care.

All three legalize marijuana for medicinal use only. All three regulate growing, processing and dispensing medical marijuana.

But there are other, significant differences between the proposals. Here’s my streamlined version of the information in Miller’s highly informative spreadsheet, supplemented with my own commentary:

Amendment 2

What it would do:  Change the Missouri Constitution to allow growing, processing and dispensing medical marijuana.

Administered by:  MO Dept. of Health and Human Services; tax oversight by MO Dept. of Revenue; State Treasurer

Tax rate on sales:  4%

How much money it would raise from taxes: $18 million [$6 million for local governments] per year

Where the tax money would go: Veterans’ health care

Who’s sponsoring it: NORML, New Approach Missouri, Individual donations

Commentary on Amendment 2

Pro – Clearly states what medical marijuana production, distribution and sales would be. Clear explanation of where the revenue will go and what agency of government will have oversight. 

Con – Revenue will go only to health needs of veterans, capital improvement of Missouri Veterans’ Homes, and other services for veterans.

Amendment 3

What it would do: Change the Missouri Constitution to allow the use of medical marijuana; create licensing procedures for marijuana facilities.

Administered by:  Brad Bradshaw, the financier of this initiative, who would be chairperson of the board of directors of a newly created organization [Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute] to oversee medical marijuana in Missouri. Bradshaw would select the members of this board, who would issue regulations.

Tax rate on sales:  15%

How much money it would raise from taxes: $66 million per year

Where the tax money would go: Biomedical Research and Drug Institute

Who’s sponsoring it:  Brad Bradshaw [Finding the Cures] –  $1 million

Commentary on Amendment 3

Pro – Similar to Amendment 2 in the description on licensing and taxes; immunity of patients, doctors, facilities.

Con – A private individual will be in control of money from taxes paid by citizens. This individual [Bradshaw] will select the administrative board that will make decision concerning every phase of the medicinal marijuana operation. 15% sales tax would be the highest in the US.

Proposition C

What it would do: Change Missouri statutes [not Constitution] to remove prohibitions on personal use and possession of medical marijuana with a written certification by a physician who treats patients diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition.

Administered by: MO Department of Health and Senior Services, and the Division of Liquor Control.

Tax rate on sales:  2%

How much money it would raise from taxes:  $10 million per year [$152,000 per year for local governments]

Where the tax money would go:  Veterans’ services, drug treatment, early childhood education, public safety in cities with a medical marijuana facility.

Who’s sponsoring it: Rex Sinquefield, Missourians for Patient Care, supporters with ties to St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger; Pelopidas LLC – $1 million.

Commentary on Proposition C

Pro – Worthy causes would receive the proceeds. Lowest tax rate of the three proposals. License fees will pay the cost of administering the program.

Con – ½ of 1% of the tax revenue would be split between the four beneficiary areas, a total of just $12,500 each. As a simple change in statutes, this law could be changed at any time by the Missouri legislature.

How will the winner be decided?

Here’s another confusing aspect of the marijuana ballot issues: Which one wins? We’re not voting for our favorite from a list of three. We’re voting Yes or No on each one separately. To pass, each requires a simple majority of the people voting on it. But what happens if all three get that majority? There’s actually a Missouri law addressing the question of what happens if two or more “conflicting” amendments or statutes are approved. The winner is the one that gets the most Yes votes. However, in this instance, two of the proposals [Amendment 2 and Amendment 3] are constitutional amendments, and the third [Proposition C] is a statutory proposal. Under Missouri law [as I understand it] constitutional law supersedes statutory law, so even if Proposition C passes, it can be superseded by one of the constitutional amendments, if one passes.  Got that? Yeah, me neither.

Vote yes. Vote no. Just vote on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Democracy is in the balance.

[Full disclosure: I’m leaning toward Amendment 2.]