Those who believe, as we do, that cannabis has legitimate medicinal purposes and should be legalized for medical use face three distinct initiatives to legalize and regulate medical marijuana in Missouri on the November 6 ballot. Two of the proposals, Amendment 2 and Proposition C, deserve support. Amendment 2, because it amends the Missouri Constitution, is preferable to Proposition C, which enacts a statutory change that could be undermined by the Missouri Legislature. Strategically, however, proponents of medical marijuana should approve both measures. The third initiative, Amendment 3, should be rejected.

Amendment 3 is wrong for every reason. It would impose a 15 percent medical marijuana sales tax – more than double that of the next highest such tax of 7.25 percent in California. The initiative is funded almost entirely by medical doctor and personal-injury attorney Brad Bradshaw. It establishes a nine-member Research Board – initially appointed by Bradshaw – to control all aspects of marijuana. In that this board would collect taxes, issue bonds, regulate products, and grant and revoke licenses, it would be a sort of private governmental body. Further, the proposal would ban the retail sale of marijuana, except medical marijuana with a doctor’s permission at authorized dispensaries. If the Legislature later wanted to legalize marijuana for other purposes, the constitution would not allow it. Also, if both Amendment 3 and the vastly preferable Proposition C passed, Proposition C would be trumped by this bad constitutional amendment. Vote No on Amendment 3.

Proposition C – initiated by Missourians for Patient Care, an organization that includes lobbyists and activists – would impose a two percent sales tax on medical marijuana, paying equal portions for veterans’ health, public safety, drug treatment, and early childhood education and development. While this sales tax is half that (4 percent) provided by Amendment 2, Proposition C only changes state law, not the constitution, so its implementation could be delayed or undermined by the Missouri Legislature – which is not a legislative body that we trust to do the right thing. However, we urge a Yes vote on Proposition C, since its passage would be a good thing and, if Amendment 2 also passes, as a constitutional amendment it would take precedence. Vote yes on Proposition C.

Even if passage of both Proposition C and Amendment 2 enacted both sales taxes, “the total of six percent would not tax marijuana so much as to keep the black market in business – which is what the Bradshaw Amendment 3 proposal, with its 15 percent tax, probably would do,” writes Michael A. Wolff, former Missouri Supreme Court chief justice, who advised us on this endorsement (and who defeated Bradshaw in court when he tried to get the competing proposals thrown off the ballot).

Amendment 2 – the New Approach Missouri petition organized by a group of political activists and endorsed by the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) – simply allows doctors to authorize patients to buy, and dispensaries to sell, marijuana for the treatment of a variety of conditions. It does not prohibit the Legislature from legalizing marijuana for other purposes, including recreation, as does the bad Amendment 3. The tax it imposes is reasonable – 4 percent on retail sales, with proceeds going to veterans’ health care (it would also be subject to local and state sales taxes). It would not create a new, shadowy branch of government, but rather rely on state government as we know it to manage the new tax revenues as provided by the amendment.

Also, Amendment 2 permits patients to grow a small amount of their own marijuana, which the other two proposals do not. “All medical marijuana proposals sound like government-sanctioned cartels that control the market for their products,” Wolff writes. “The New Approach Amendment 2 model, with a little grow-your-own, offers some relief from this cartel feature.” Further, as Wolff assures us, “Its provisions would be in our well-cluttered constitution and, therefore, largely out of the reach of legislative meddling.” Vote yes on Amendment 2.

SOURCE: Saint Louis American