The Missouri Times: Missourians will have three options for legalizing medical marijuana on November ballot

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Show-Me State will get the chance in November to decide whether or not to join the plethora of other states in legalizing medical marijuana. And voters will not be shy of options, with three initiative petitions submitting enough signatures to be certified for the general election ballot.

Though illegal on a federal level, the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has become of growing movement with 30 states in the U.S., including Oklahoma and Arkansas, passing laws giving patients with certain illness access to cannabis.

“Americans views on the subject are shifting and shifting fast,” said Travis Brown, with Missourians for Patient Care, a group that put forward one of the initiative petitions.

On June 25, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took a momentous step in approving a drug derived from marijuana to treat severe forms of epilepsy. That move signaled that even though cannabis in all forms is considered a Schedule I drug — a drug without medical uses — the plant has medical uses.

“Missourians really want to put the doctor and the patient back in charge of making decisions on medical treatment options, not bureaucrats and politicians,” said Jack Cardetti with New Approach Missouri, a group that put forward one of the initiative petitions.

And now voters in the Show-Me State are going to be presented with the question of if medical marijuana should be legal, and if so, just how they want to do so.

“In November, Missourians will choose whether or not to create a program to allow access to marijuana for a wide range of ailments,” said NCADA’s Executive Director, Nichole Dawsey, in a news release. “This will be the first time Missourians have voted on whether or not something constitutes a medicine. Due to the unprecedented nature of these efforts, it’s crucial that Missourians be informed of the details of each initiative.”

The three options Missourians will be presented with legalizing medical marijuana are vastly different. Two are Constitutional amendments, one is a statutory change. Tax rates range from 2 percent to 15 percent, cost of administration runs between $500,000 to $10 million, and revenue generation estimates vary from $10 million to $66 million.

If more than one measure is passed by voters, state law states that “the largest affirmative vote shall prevail, even if that amendment did not receive the greatest majority of affirmative votes.”

Here is a breakdown of the three measures:

Proposition C

Unique within the medical marijuana measures is the Missouri Patient Care Act, which is a statutory change instead of a constitutional amendment.

In drafting the measure, Travis Brown said that “there was a lot of deference given to state laws that have worked, or are viewed to have worked.”

The measure creates a framework where physicians with a “bona fide” relations with the patient may recommend marijuana or marijuana products to treat qualifying conditions. Some of the illnesses specified in language are cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, intractable migraines unresponsive to other treatment, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and seizures. It contains a provision allowing “any other chronic, debilitating or other medical condition…” at the professional judgment of the physician.

Oversight of the program would fall to the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco. An individual would be able to possess 2.5 ounces as a 14 day supply and may possess up to a 60 day supply at a time.

Medical marijuana would be taxed at 2 percent, the lowest of the proposals.

This statute requires local municipalities to pass regulating ordinances and requirements for licensure. Local municipalities would be able to prohibit the cultivation and sale of marijuana with a 2/3 vote in the general election.

Licensed entities must be at least 60 percent owned by individuals who have been Missouri residents for a minimum of three years. No provision allows for individuals to cultivate marijuana in their residence and sale hours are limited.

According to estimates provided to the Secretary of State’s Office, state government entities estimate initial and one-time costs of $2.6 million, annual costs of $10 million, and annual revenues of at least $10 million. Local government entities estimate no annual costs and are expected to have at least $152,000 in annual revenues.

As a statutory amendment, it allows the Missouri General Assembly to revise the law and make improvements as necessary.

“For this particular industry, the kinds of investors, and the marketplace that is growing very rapidly we felt like a statutory approach is more appropriate than a constitutional approach because the probability that you might need to tweak something at some point is relatively high,” said Brown. He said that the chance of being perfect day one is pretty low.

But the advantage the measure has as a statutory change could also be considered a disadvantage: The legislature can make changes. If Missouri’s lawmakers choose to, they could strip away a majority of the law, as legislators in other states are in the process of.

Amendment 2

The constitutional amendment put forth by New Approach Missouri will be the first marijuana-related question to show up on the ballot.

“Of the three initiative petitions, we are the first on the ballot which was a strategic move,” said Jack Cardetti with New Approach Missouri. “New Approach Missouri and the backers of Amendment 2 are a coalition of veterans, health care providers, and patients with one very important goal: make Missouri the 31st state that allows state license physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with serious and debilitating disease.”

The measure creates a framework where physicians may recommend marijuana or marijuana products to treat nine qualifying conditions — such as PTSD, seizures, cancer, and epilepsy — and “any other chronic, debilitating or other medical condition…” at the professional judgment of the physician.

Oversight of the program would fall to the Department of Health and Senior Services. The department would be able to limit purchases to 4 ounces of marijuana per patient every 30 days, with exceptions if doctors recommend a higher dose.

“This is a medical marijuana program. [DHSS] has experience working with health care providers and that is exactly what they would be doing here,” said Cardetti.

Patients would be required to obtain a medical marijuana card, at a cost of $25 annually, to enable access to treatment. A 4 percent excise tax in addition to local and state sales tax would be added to all marijuana products. The excise tax would go directly to the Missouri Veterans Health and Care Fund and all other excise taxes would be prohibited.

This measure would require DHSS to approve 1 cultivation center per 100,000 residents, 1 manufacturing facility per 70,000 residents, and at least 24 dispensaries in every congressional district. Cultivation, manufacture, and dispensing facilities may not be established within 1,000 feet of a church, school, or daycare.

Those with medical marijuana cards would be able to cultivate up to 6 flowering plants for personal use.

According to estimates provided to the Secretary of State’s Office, this proposal could generate annual taxes and fees of $18 million for state operating costs and veterans programs, and $6 million for local governments. Annual state operating costs are estimated to be $7 million.

“Missourians want certainty on this issue, patients want certainty on this issue,” said Cardetti. “Ours is the only initiative that would put funding towards helping veterans in Missouri, and we think that is desperately needed.”

Amendment 3

Also called the Bradshaw Amendment, the proposal spearheaded by Springfield attorney and physician Brad Bradshaw would legalize medical marijuana and imposed the largest tax of any of the proposed measures.

This constitutional amendment would create the Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute, which would oversee medical marijuana research in Missouri. The research board would be composed of nine members — all physicians, pharmacists, or holding a doctorate in a related field — receiving an annual salary equal to that of the Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice.

It would be up to the board to determine which ailments would enable a person to have access to medical marijuana.

The research board may limit marijuana purchases, but not less than 3 ounces every 30 days. The board must issue at least 50 manufacturing licenses and allow 1 dispensary for every 20,000 residents in a county.

Patients would pay $100 annually for identification cards. A 15 percent excise tax would be charged at the retail level. A separate excise tax of $9.25/ounce on flowers and buds, and $2.75/ounce on leaves would be charged.

Only 25 percent of a physician’s income would be allowed to come from treating qualifying patients. Physicians would not be able to issue certifications in excess of 25% of prescriptions written in the previous year.

According to estimates provided to the Secretary of State’s Office, this proposal could generate annual taxes and fees of $66 million. State governmental entities estimate initial implementation costs of $186,000 and increased annual operating costs of $500,000.

SOURCE: The Missouri Times

Canada Legalizes Cannabis and the FDA Approves Marijuana-based Drug

Canada has set a date of October 17, 2018 to legalize marijuana across the country in a move that the prime minister believes will undermine organized crime. Provinces are working to set their own laws as it relates to growing and using cannabis as well as regulations around the sale of the product. Ontario, for example, will allow government-run cannabis retail shops but not private cannabis stores.

The first recorded planting of marijuana was in modern-day Nova Scotia in 1606. Now, 212 years later, The Cannabis Act allows citizens to have legal access to the product and provides guidelines for how sellers can enter the marketplace. As Forbes magazine noted, this passage was extremely bold as it goes against international drug policy treaties. Canada will be the second country to legalize the plant. In 2013, the President of Uruguay signed legalized marijuana into law and today the country is finding it difficult to meet demand.

Most recently, in the United States, Oklahomans voted to legalize medical marijuana, passing a ballot initiative by 56% to 43%. This makes Oklahoma the 30th state in the union to allow legal access to medical marijuana. Missouri and Utah could be added to this number come November as citizens vote on legalization.

On the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration issued a news release detailing their full approval for Epidiolex which contains cannabidiol (CBD) – a direct extract from the Cannabis sativa plant. This is the first FDA-approved drug containing plant-derived CBD. As their release notes, the Drug Enforcement Agency is now required to make a scheduling determination to allow suffering patients the legal right to access this FDA-approved medical treatment.

S.T.A.T.E.S. Act

New legislation taking aim at state-level marijuana regulation has been introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado). The bill is called Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act, or STATES for short. Its purpose is to allow states to regulate marijuana as each state sees fit without interference from the federal level and extends to Washington D.C., U.S. territories and federally-recognized tribes.

President Trump responded to Mr. Gardner’s bill by commenting, “I know exactly what he’s doing, we’re looking at it, but I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has held to the fact that his department is upholding the laws that lawmakers have passed. When appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee in April he stated, “The federal government has passed some laws on marijuana that I’m not able to remove from the books.” In that same meeting, the list of priorities for his department did not include marijuana, citing instead, “fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine.”

Gardner was quick to point out that “this is not about legalizing marijuana.” So, under federal law, it would still be classified as a Schedule I drug in states that have not passed laws regarding cannabis. If passed, the STATES bill will allow banks to work with marijuana companies legally operating under state law without fear of federal prosecution. It will also protect citizens who are legally complying with state law from federal regulations on marijuana.

Other language worth noting in the bill is that industrial hemp would no longer be part of the broader definition of marihuana as called out in the Controlled Substances Act. Industrial hemp contains such a small amount of THC that it does not compare to the psycho-active type of marijuana that is smoked in order to obtain a “high feeling.”

Moving forward, a similar bill will need to be introduced in the House of Representatives. After approval of any amendments, it will be up to the president to sign it into law.

SOURCE: https://www.cannabisbusinessexecutive.com/2018/06/senators-warren-d-ma-gardner-r-co-introduce-states-act-bill/

Missouri Democrat Kills Medical Marijuana Bill

Missouri’s medical marijuana legislation went up in smoke this week after one Democrat asked for the measure to be removed from a healthcare omnibus bill.

Senator Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City) was the only member of the committee to speak in opposition to the provision, which would have legalized a smokeless form of cannabis for people with terminal illnesses.

“This has not been vetted at all on the Senate side,” said Holsman on Wednesday morning during a conference committee hearing on SB 718.

Since 2014, Holsman has financially backed a far-left group which has spent millions of dollars to add an expansive marijuana amendment to the Missouri constitution. Though the Senator has introduced his own marijuana legislation for years, his bills have never received wide support from his colleagues.

“It’s always disappointing when good legislation doesn’t cross the finish line, but I believe the legislature will deal with this issue next year,” said Rep. Jim Neely (R-Cameron), whose medical marijuana bill was approved by a veto-proof majority in the Missouri House of Representatives last month. “Missourians fighting for their lives don’t have time to wait for the FDA to approve medical cannabis.”

Voters may get the chance to weigh in on marijuana in the November election. Signatures for three separate marijuana petitions were filed with the Missouri Secretary of State last week.

SOURCE: https://www.cannabis.gripe/2018/05/MO-Democrat-Kills-Medical-Marijuana.html?m=1

AP: Minimum wage, medical pot among Missouri ballot proposals

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Several groups have submitted signatures for proposed ballot measures on a minimum wage hike, limits on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and medical marijuana in time for the Sunday deadline to get initiative petitions on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The Missouri Secretary of State’s Office still needs to check the number of signatures for each proposal, and then local election authorities must verify signatures. The process takes weeks to determine whether measures received enough voter signatures to get on the ballot.

Here’s a round-up of the proposed ballot measures:

Minimum wage

One proposal would ask voters to increase the state’s minimum wage from the current $7.85 an hour to $8.60 an hour in 2019, then gradually increase it to $12 an hour by 2023. The petition is backed by the organization Raise Up Missouri, which has said it turned in more than 120,000 signatures.

Proposed changes to state law require 5 percent of legal voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts to sign petitions to get the issue on the ballot. According to the secretary of state’s office, that means a minimum of about 100,000 signatures.

Ethics

A proposed constitutional amendment pushed by the group Clean Missouri would limit lobbyist gifts to lawmakers to at most $5 and require legislators to wait at least two years before becoming lobbyists. Currently, there are no limits to lobbyist gifts, although they must be reported. Lawmakers now must wait six months from the end of their term before lobbying.

Clean Missouri’s campaign director, Sean Nicholson, said the group had collected almost 347,000 signatures, more than twice the minimum amount needed to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

The measure faces pushback from some Republicans over a proposed change in redistricting.

Legislative districts are set to be redrawn after the 2020 census, and currently are created by two governor-appointed, bipartisan commissions. Those commissions would still exist under the ballot proposal, but they would instead be tasked with reviewing a map drawn by a “non-partisan state demographer,” with the aim of making future elections more competitive.

That demographer would be chosen by the state auditor, although Senate majority and minority leaders would be able to veto some candidates.

Current Auditor Nicole Galloway is a Democrat. She’s up for re-election in November.

Medical marijuana

Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana in Missouri have turned in signatures for three ballot initiatives that would let voters weigh in on the issue.

Three organizations — New Approach Missouri, Missourians for Patient Care and Find the Cure — submitted signatures for petitions to support allowing some patients access to medical marijuana.

Each initiative would allow patients with cancer, HIV, epilepsy and a variety of other conditions access to medical marijuana. The differences among the proposals largely stem from how marijuana would be regulated and taxed, and where those new tax dollars would go.

According to the secretary of state’s office, if all three measures made it to the ballot and were approved by voters, the differences between them would be resolved by the following formula: Constitutional amendments would trump state law, and whichever amendment received the most votes would overrule the other.

SOURCE: SE Missourian

Cannabis-based Drug Stops Seizures in 5% of Children. Will the FDA Approve It?

The Federal Drug Administration is poised to make history should it approve a new drug for treating epilepsy called Epidiolex. What makes this oral solution unique is its active ingredient – cannabis. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to Missouri residents as the state has already recognized the value of medical marijuana in helping patients with intractable epilepsy. But that’s currently the only condition for which the state allows medicinal cannabis treatments.

The Missouri Patient Care Act seeks to bring a reasonable, regulated medical cannabis industry to the voters on the 2018 ballot. This petition requires certification from a licensed physician prior to receiving treatment but goes beyond epilepsy to include any other qualifying conditions. Today, physicians are willing to recommend brain surgeries to their epileptic patients even though success ranges from 20% to 90%, but for those with intractable epilepsy, surgery is not effective.

Now, a FDA-approved panel of 13 experts has unanimously agreed that Epidiolex is both safe and effective. The main ingredient, cannabidiol (CBD), does not contain THC, known to provide the “high” associated with smoking marijuana. In two large clinical trials, the new drug improved conditions significantly. The first study of 225 patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome saw a 42% reduction in seizure occurrence. The second trial was comprised of 120 children with Dravet syndrome. Convulsive seizures were cut in half among 43% of those taking the drug with 5% achieving complete freedom from seizures.

To date, no antiepileptic drug has been approved in the United States for patients with Dravet syndrome. As exciting as this news is to parents, patients and physicians, this preliminary approval by the expert panel does not guarantee that the FDA will officially approve the drug when they convene on June 27. To do so would require the Drug Enforcement Administration to remove cannabis from their list of Schedule 1 drugs. To date, the DEA holds fast to their belief that marijuana (cannabis) has no currently accepted medical use.

Medical Cannabis Bill Brings Hope to VA Patients

In a 2017 American Legion poll of veteran households,  92 percent of respondents supported medical marijuana research, 82 percent would like medical cannabis to be legalized and 1 in 5 veterans currently use it to treat a medical or physical condition. But even today, most VA patients are worried they could lose their benefits if they discuss medical marijuana use with their doctors as the VA cites federal law (DEA) which defines cannabis as a Schedule I drug. For years, VA physicians have refused to discuss cannabis benefits with their patients.

That silence could be forcibly broken with legislation introduced in the House of Representatives called the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018. An article in Task & Purpose explains why this would be a game changer for servicemen and women. If passed, this legislation would allow the VA’s existing Office of Research and Development to conduct research on the benefits of medical marijuana in treating veterans. It would also give VA patients and physicians freedom to discuss medical cannabis.

Bill HR5520 has the support of both the Republican and Democrat leaders on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. It includes language that demands reports from the VA on an annual basis to show the group’s progress in conducting clinical research. The potential positives for vets using cannabinoids are making headlines for good reason.

The number of vets suffering from chronic pain and PTSD exceeds the national civilian average as does the suicide rate for those addicted to opioids. In 2016, drug overdose death rates increased by 21.5-percent and 66-percent of those deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid. And when it comes to truly dangerous Schedule I drugs it’s important to note that four out of five new heroin users first started by purposely misusing prescription painkillers.

The Missouri Patient Care Act allows patients to discuss medical cannabis with their physician and provides safe access through a well regulated industry, encouraging research. In Pennsylvania, a significant research study has been announced with a goal of detailing the benefits of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain management. Should medical cannabis prove to be a useful coping mechanism, American vets and civilians alike could transition away from highly-addictive opioids which could significantly reduce overdose death rates.

Cultivation Is Proving Its Value As An Economic Solution

When the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission announced their top choices for cultivation applicants in February 2018, there was cause to celebrate in the tiny town of Cotton Plant, Arkansas, where a growing operation would be based. The New York Times highlighted this event in an article on the economic opportunities that can come with medical marijuana.

For the mayor of Cotton Plant in Woodruff County, new business is a rarity and his attempts to lure companies and franchises to the rural location have been futile. The population has steadily declined to a number now below 600. The Arkansas Economic Development Commission ranked Woodruff County in the Tier 4 division which makes it one of the least prosperous counties in the state. Applicants willing to build facilities in a Tier 4 county were given priority over others.

Elsewhere, in New Castle, Pennsylvania, with a population of 20,000, the opportunity for a small company to utilize large, empty warehouses for growing cannabis could create an estimated 100 to 150 jobs. And in Pueblo County, Colorado, long known for its poverty, unemployment and low education, unemployment dropped from 12.9 percent to 3.2 percent with the introduction of cannabis processing labs.

On a national level, the industry is set to explode as the number of jobs in the U.S. is predicted to reach 1.1 million by 2025. Revenues from legal cannabis sales in North America are expected to rise from $9.2 billion in 2017 to $47.3 billion by 2027.

Missouri is poised to share in economic benefits like these if medical marijuana passes in November. The Missourians for Patient Care Act is a statutory ballot initiative that gives patients the access they need while giving local government control in establishing local licensing authorities.

SOURCE: NY Times

Medical Marijuana Protection for Missouri in Federal Spending Bill

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice updated their federal marijuana enforcement policy to announce that they would leave states to address their own marijuana activity. In 2014, the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment prevented the U.S. Department of Justice from using their funds to undermine state medical marijuana laws (but this expired on September 30, 2017). Missouri laws shifted in 2014 with changes to sentencing for first-time marijuana possession and granting patients with intractable epilepsy the right to obtain and possess cannabis. Since 2015, twelve additional states have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana, cannabis or its oil.

In 2017, the Senate passed a rider that reinstated the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, disallowing the Department of Justice from working against 46 states, District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico as it relates to medical marijuana. Missouri made the list. While the language didn’t pass last year, it did make its way into the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, that was signed by President Trump.

This solidifies states’ rights regarding medical marijuana and cannabis and alleviates concerns over both the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice and comments made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

While the Missourians for Patient Care Act seeks to provide Missouri patients with safe access to a regulated medical cannabis industry for medical benefit, there are other uses for hemp that could be explored. As Forbes.com reports, state industrial hemp research programs are also protected in the omnibus spending bill. This helps pave the way for the United States to make its own advances in the use and potential of hemp – an industry Popular Mechanics magazine predicted to be immensely valuable to the United States before it was made illegal through The Marihuana Tax Act in 1937.

SOURCE: Forbes

New Medical Marijuana Documentary Premieres at SXSW

A new documentary, Weed the People, premiered at SXSW 2018 Film Festival, putting the subject of medical cannabis back in the spotlight. The film, directed by Abby Epstein and executive produced by Ricki Lake, follows five families who stop at nothing to get access to medical cannabis for their children who are fighting cancer.

In the trailer, Donald Abrams, MD. points out that cannabis has been considered a medicine for 3,000 years except in the United States where it was deemed to not have medicinal value more than 80 years ago. This has been a source of frustration for many who are finding value in different forms of cannabis extracts, including extracts that contain no more than 0.03% THC which provides the “high” associated with recreational marijuana.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency places marijuana in the same Schedule I drug category as LSD and heroin all of which are labeled as having “no currently accepted medical use.” But in 2001, U.S. Health and Human Services filed for patent 6630507 to use cannabinoids for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and HIV dementia.

Today, The American Cancer Society supports the need for more scientific research on cannabinoids for cancer patients. And the National Cancer Institute agrees that cannabinoids may have benefits in the treatment of cancer-related side effects. But it’s in other countries where cannabis research is proving medical value including Israel, where studies of cannabinoids are already in motion.

The Missourians for Patient Care Act seeks to provide Missouri patients with safe access to a regulated medical cannabis industry for medical benefit. It’s also the only initiative that supports all drug treatment facilities dealing with other drug abuses.

For more information on the documentary visit www.weedthepeoplemovie.com.