Missourians will vote on legalizing medical marijuana in November

Three initiatives on the November ballot in Missouri would legalize and regulate the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

Medical marijuana legalization, a higher Missouri minimum wage and a political reform bill have been certified to go to a vote of the people on Nov. 6.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office announced the certification of five measures Thursday morning, giving potential opponents 10 days to issue legal challenges.

Three initiatives would legalize and regulate the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

Ashcroft also issued certificates of sufficiency for two non-marijuana issues: One that would raise the minimum wage gradually to $12 per hour, and another proposal to change the way Missouri’s legislative districts are drawn and to impose new restrictions on campaign finance and lobbying in Jefferson City.

With three different medical marijuana proposals on the ballot, voters understandably may be confused. Here’s how each one breaks down:

One proposal would tax marijuana at 15 percent and use the funds to establish a state-run institute to research cures for incurable diseases. This constitutional amendment — spearheaded by Springfield attorney and physician Brad Bradshaw — is estimated to generate $66 million in state revenue annually, with about $500,000 in annual operating costs. Fees would be imposed on licenses, and cultivation also would be taxed.

Bradshaw largely self-funded the amendment, which would create a nine-person research board led at least temporarily by Bradshaw himself. The board would be in charge of setting licensing fees, limiting how much marijuana could be bought and sold, determining how many growing operations would be allowed, and identifying which diseases to target.

The Bradshaw amendment collected about 198,000 valid signatures, including 31,678 in the 7th Congressional District, according to Ashcroft’s office.

•New Approach Missouri

A second constitutional amendment, the New Approach Missouri proposal, would tax marijuana at 4 percent and spend the $18 million in annual taxes and fees on veterans programs and cost the state $7 million in annual operating costs. The proposal also is expected to generate $6 million annually for local governments.

New Approach’s proposal would put regulatory authority for licensing the cultivation, testing and sale of marijuana in the hands of the Department of Health and Senior Services. The state would be able to create a “seed-to-sale tracking system” to ensure marijuana only goes to qualified patients.

The initiative has had a few hundred donors. Among its biggest, with $75,000, is a Kansas company called Emerald City Holdings; little information about the company is publicly available, and an attorney connected with the firm could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Another $5,000 was chipped in by Funkytown LLC, a rental property company registered to Springfield attorney Joseph D. Sheppard III.

If Missouri legalizes medical marijuana, “what a wonderful day that will be for over 200,000 Missourians that want a safe alternative to deadly opiates and other side effect ridden medications,” said Sheppard, who also donated as an individual.

Sheppard announced in July that he attended a lawyers’ conference focused on representing clients in the marijuana and industrial hemp industries. (Missouri lawmakers passed a bill legalizing hemp earlier this year.)

New Approach Missouri collected about 232,000 valid signatures, including 33,204 in the 7th Congressional District, according to Ashcroft’s office.

•Missourians for Patient Care

The third, Missourians for Patient Care, would tax marijuana at 2 percent and spend the revenue on services for veterans, drug treatment, early childhood education and public safety in cities where medical marijuana facilities are located. According to Ashcroft’s office, the proposal would cost $2.6 million initially and $10 million annually, with annual revenues of at least $10 million to the state and $152,000 to local governments.

This statutory amendment also would delegate marijuana oversight to the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Public Safety.

Much of the money received by Missourians for Patient Care has come from a nonprofit with the same name based in St. Louis County. The nonprofit — which is not required to disclose its donors — has the same address as another major donor, the First Rule media company, which is tied to megadonor Rex Sinquefield.

Missourians for Patient Care collected about 131,000 valid signatures, including 21,255 in the 7th Congressional District, according to Ashcroft’s office (Statutory initiatives require fewer signatures than constitutional amendments).

•What if they all pass?

State law says if voters approve both the New Approach measure and the Bradshaw amendment, whichever receives “the largest affirmative vote shall prevail, even if that amendment did not receive the greatest majority of affirmative votes.”

For the next 10 days, Ashcroft’s office said, anyone could file a legal challenge to any of the certificates of sufficiency — documents signifying that advocates collected a satisfactory number of signatures to put an issue on the ballot. The secretary of state has until Aug. 28 to finally certify an issue for the November ballot.

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