Twenty-three states have medical marijuana programs, and the issue is surfacing to legalize medical marijuana in Missouri. Two competing proposals are already trying to get on the November 2016 ballot, with lawmakers pointing to growing bipartisan support for the use of medical marijuana, as long as it’s under a doctor’s supervision.
A Harris poll conducted in May revealed that 81 percent of 2,000 respondents across the United States supported medical marijuana. Among Republicans in the poll, 69 percent voted in favor.
Legalize Medical Marijuana Missouri – November 2016
The two proposals for constitutional amendments in Missouri are banking on the perception that the medical route has more popular backing. Rather than repeat the so-far unsuccessful efforts to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, a push for medical cannabis would be a plausible first step.
One effort comes from a coalition called New Approach Missouri, which has the support of Show-Me Cannabis. The organization has filed two initiatives with the Secretary of State, both to permit state-licensed physicians to recommend marijuana to patients with serious illness and medical conditions. Excess revenue from an additional 4 percent tax on pot, above state and local taxes, would go toward veterans’ services across the state.
Under the plan, doctors would be allowed to recommend pot to patients with chronic illnesses, such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma or multiple sclerosis. The marijuana could come in different forms such as strains for smoking, THC capsules and cannabis oils.
Jack Cardetti, a former spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon, was hired as 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 a new government program.
Months before drafting the proposal he said they were looking at successful legislation already passed around the country.
“What we really did in the first phase was look at which states did a really nice job implementing the program,” he said. “When we did that we really found an overarching theme: what is best for patients.”
Missouri Research’s plan
Brad Bradshaw, a licensed Springfield physician and attorney running in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor next year, is behind the second proposal. His plan would legalize medical marijuana, impose a significant tax on it and direct the money toward medical research.
Bradshaw gets agitated when people assume his campaign is solely about legalizing pot.
“Really, it’s quite the opposite,” he said. “It is the development of a medical research institute in Missouri to generate cures for cancer and other incurable diseases and generate money for the state through taxes on medical marijuana. Legalize medical marijuana Missouri is a sexy issue, research for cures is not.”
Called Missouri Research, the Bradshaw plan would favor licensed pharmacists as dispensers, with no provisions for home-growing and cultivation centers. Marijuana would be taxed 75 percent at the point of sale on top of the 10 percent wholesale tax.
Choosing to put the profits toward medical research was a no-brainer for Bradshaw. Since graduating from medical school, he said he’s been bemused by the slow progress on incurable diseases. There’s always talk of raising awareness for a cure, he said, but less in the way of finding one.
According to a January study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, funding for research in America dropped 0.8 percent every year from 2004 to 2012.
It took nearly two years for Bradshaw and his campaign committee, Go Missouri, to draft a proposal describing a statewide institute to be run under the Department of Health. The impetus to center it on medical marijuana was that it was more popular — and potentially more profitable — than a mandatory statewide tax.
Bradshaw estimates his plan could raise $45 million to $58 million a year for the state and that doesn’t include what he said are possible profits from research.
“This is something unique to our proposal for medical marijuana Missouri — we have established with our medical research institute that any cures or discoveries that are developed, Missouri owns the intellectual property rights on those,” he said. “That means if there’s a miracle drug that comes that’s worth billions of dollars, that’s billions of dollars for the state of Missouri.”
That money could go toward projects such as infrastructure, education and medical care, he said. But the bulk would contribute to the research institute campus, which counties across Missouri could vie for through public votes.
Cardetti said the intentions of the proposal are noble. He just doesn’t think Bradshaw’s going about it the right way.
“We think his heart is in the right place. 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 defended his tax with the claim that it would come out to less than $1 per person given the cheap price of producing marijuana.
He has voiced concerns about the opposing 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.
What Bradshaw and Cardetti agree on, though, is that Missourians are ready Legalize medical marijuana, even if they’re not about to join the states legalizing recreational pot just yet.
Legalize medical marijuana Missouri would change everything, he said — it would make it OK for people in pain to legally seek the same relief he found.