Missouri officials announced last week that three separate medical marijuana initiatives officially qualified for the state’s November ballot, and competition between the sponsoring advocacy groups is already heating up.
While all three measures seek to establish regulated medical cannabis systems in the state, two are proposed constitutional amendments and the third would be a statutory amendment. In Missouri, the top vote-getter generally prevails.
But in this case, if votes for the statutory amendment exceed those for either of the constitutional measures—and one of the constitutional measures also passes—the fate of Missouri’s medical marijuana law could be left up to the courts.
The stakes are high for each sponsoring advocacy group to avoid vote splitting. If a sufficient number of voters go to the polls and only support their favored approach while voting against the other two, it could end up being the case that no measure garners majority support.
But just days after the ballot qualification announcement, advocates are already sniping at competing proposals.
Missouri NORML has gone to bat for the proposed constitutional measure sponsored by New Approach Missouri, which would allow doctors to recommend cannabis for certain medical conditions, let patients grow up to six plants and possess up to four ounces and tax medical marijuana from registered dispensaries at four percent.
“Having three initiatives on the same ballot dealing with the same issue complicates the situation considerably,” Missouri NORML executive director Dan Viets wrote in a blog post on Friday.
— New Approach MO (@NewApproachMO) August 2, 2018
New Approach Missouri and the state NORML chapter established an alliance early on—and now that all three initiatives are set to appear on the November ballot, the organization isn’t mincing words about its competition.
“Most observers believe that either of the constitutional amendments would prevail over the statutory initiative even if it got more votes, which seems very unlikely,” Viets wrote. “The other constitutional initiative is funded by a single individual, a wealthy personal injury lawyer from Springfield, Missouri.”
“His campaign has a single contributor. It would establish the highest tax on medical marijuana in the nation and use that tax money to establish a new medical research facility which the filer of the petition, attorney Brad Bradshaw, would personally run. His initiative specifies that the filer of his initiative will choose the Board of Directors and that the Chief Executive of that research agency must be someone who is both a physician and a lawyer, which Bradshaw is! If the press exposes the blatant vested interest he has in this measure, we think the public will reject it.”
Marijuana Moment reached out to the Find the Cures campaign for comment, but did not receive a response.
— Find The Cures (@FindTheCuresMO) August 2, 2018
A spokesperson for the statutory amendment sponsor, Missourians for Patient Care, told Marijuana Moment that the group was actually optimistic about the fact that multiple medical cannabis legalization amendments were on the table.
“We’re ecstatic that Missouri has the chance to decide this issue this November on behalf of all of the initiatives, but we’re especially excited that if voters support one or more of these that Missouri won’t be left behind for patients,” Travis Brown, the signature collection leader for Missourians for Patient Care, said.
There remains a possibility that the competing groups “could cooperate or prevail together,” he said. But at the end of the day, “it’s really ultimately up to the people to decide whether they want to amend their constitution, which has some advantages of permanence.” That same advantage “comes at a disadvantage because it can’t be adapted over time, or improved or tweaked in any way.”
“At this point, it’s a Jenga game to see what the courts may ultimately decide after the voters make their decision.”
Reform efforts in Missouri could have been even further complicated if lawmakers had passed a medical marijuana legalization bill earlier this year.
As advocates hustled to collect signatures for their respective ballot initiatives, Missouri lawmakers debated a bill that would have legalized “smokeless” medical cannabis for patients suffering from serious illnesses. The bill cleared a number of hurdles—but it ultimately died in committee just days before the end of session in May.
Some of those lawmakers have weighed in since the Missouri Secretary of State announced that the three medical marijuana ballot measures had qualified.
“I am concerned that the competing campaigns of the three medical marijuana initiatives certified for the November ballot certified for the November ballot… will alienate voters and lead to Missourians waiting longer to have access to these therapeutic options,” Missouri Rep. Cheri Reisch (R) said in a press release Thursday.
Missouri Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R) echoed that sentiment, saying that while he supported the legalization bill in the House, voters must be “cautious about proposed changes to our laws, especially those built into the constitution, and must work to ensure any voter approved framework is implemented in ways that protects the rights of Missourians to healthcare freedom and equitable commercial access.”
In any case, with a majority of Missourians in favor of medical marijuana legalization according to polls, it seems highly likely that the state will push reform forward, unless advocates sufficiently tarnish each other’s proposals in the public’s eye. But what path they ultimately take in November—and beyond—is yet to be seen.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.
Watch: Senator’s Spot-On Impression Of Mitch McConnell Talking About Marijuana
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was apparently taken aback when he heard that the red state of Utah is likely to legalize medical marijuana in November.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said in an interview on Wednesday that the exchange took place during Senate’s tax reform debate earlier this year, and he executed a pretty uncanny impression of McConnell in the retelling.
Asked by Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call to share his favorite story about McConnell, Gardner said the two struck up a conversation on the Senate floor about marijuana and small business tax issues.
At the time, the Colorado senator was pushing an amendment to undo the provision in federal tax law known as 280E that prevents marijuana businesses from writing normal expenses off of their returns.
Gardner pressed McConnell on the issue, telling him that “47-plus states have legalized some form of marijuana, medical marijuana, CBD… Even Utah is most likely gonna legalize medical marijuana this year.”
“And McConnell looks at me and he goes, ‘Utah?’ And just this terrified look. Right as he says that, [Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)] walks up, and Mitch looks at Orrin, and he says, ‘Orrin, is Utah really gonna legalize marijuana?'”
Then, looking at his feet, hands folded, the Mormon senator from Utah deadpanned: “First tea, then coffee, and now this.”
“It was just hysterical,” Gardner said.
You can watch the full Roll Call interview here.
Though McConnell isn’t quite the face of cannabis reform in Congress, he’s taken a leadership role in the fight to legalize industrial hemp—successfully securing a provision to accomplish just that in the Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill, which is now being reconciled with a proposal from the House that contains no hemp language.
Gardner, meanwhile, has embraced reforms sought by the legal cannabis industry in the years since Colorado became the first state to end marijuana prohibition in 2012.
Photo courtesy of RollCall.
Man Sends Marijuana Samples To Feds… To Make A Legal Point
Mailing numerous cannabinoid samples to U.S. courts and the Department of Justice was a key part of one man’s convoluted lawsuit strategy against the federal government that relied on an obscure Confederate-era statute, court filings show.
Oh, right. This requires some explanation. So, it’s not entirely clear what the end-game in this case was meant to be, but the essential facts are as follows: a man named Jeffrey Nathan Schirripa filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, alleging that the government failed to hold up its end of a contract that, in a roundabout way, he attempted to force upon it.
Schirripa first sent cannabinoid samples to the Justice Department and a U.S. district court in 2015 to lay the groundwork for a theoretical “contract” between himself and the government, according to the filings. But the court “dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Then, in an apparent effort to “prove the existence” of a contract, Schirripa attached unspecified parts of marijuana to 18 copies of a confidential petition for rehearing this year. Schirripa seemed to believe that he was creating “subject matter jurisdiction,” a necessary component of an implied unilateral contract that he said the government violated.
The court did not agree that unsolicited mailings of controlled substances constituted the relevant subject matter in an implied contract, though. On Monday, it filed this order:
“The Clerk of Court is directed to transmit these 18 documents to the U.S. Marshals Service for appropriate disposition or alternate action within the purview of the U.S. Department of Justice.”
The judges explained that the specific U.S. statute that Schirripa used as the basis of his subject matter claim was enacted in 1861, and it was exclusively designed to “weaken the Confederate States by authorizing the President to seize property aiding the Confederacy in its insurrection.” In other words, it didn’t apply here.
In his petition for rehearing, Schirripa included a flow chart visualizing of his intended logic.
It starts with the fact that he sent prototypes of “neuroprotecting antioxidants” to members of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Schirripa admits that sending the “gifted” substances directly violated the Controlled Substances Act. So far, so good.
But from there, the petitioner seems to suggest that in both possible scenarios he presents—that the law can be enforced against him for mailing a controlled substance or that it can’t and so the cannabinoids are therefore “subject to prize/capture”—he’s proven to be an “interested party,” thereby validating his claim that the government breached an implied unilateral contract.
“I don’t fully understand the Schirripa’s flow chart, but it appears to be a boot-strap version a catch-22 for the court—the type of argument that you might figure out while high,” Dennis Crouch, a law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, wrote in a blog post about the case.
The court seemed to agree. The statutes upon which Schirripa rested his contract theory “have no relation to any contract theory or any government bid or procurement practice,” the judges ruled in their denial of his rehearing. “The Court of Federal Claims thoroughly considered Mr. Schirripa’s arguments and theories, and fully explained their inapplicability.”
The appeals process might not have worked out, but it’s hard to imagine that Schirripa will be totally deterred. This marks his third appeal on “related actions” since 2014, court documents show. The legal logic of an implied unilateral contract didn’t hold up this time, but Schirripa—who has described himself as “the world’s most qualified expert in the realm of Cannabinoid Reform”—seems to be nothing if not tenacious.
Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.
Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says
A Democratic lawmaker who many political observers believe will likely be the next chairman of the powerful U.S. House Judiciary Committee implied in an interview on Wednesday that he supports legalizing other currently illicit drugs in addition to marijuana.
“From everything we have learned, people are going to do drugs. And certainly the softer drugs like marijuana, there’s no good reason at all that they cannot be legalized and regulated properly,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said.
“The major effect of the war on drugs has been to fill our prisons with huge numbers of people to no great effect except to waste money and to ruin lives.”
In the comments, which Nadler made during an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, the congressman did not specify with substances he believes should be legalized, but his use of the pluralized phrase “softer drugs like marijuana” and the word “they” suggests his anti-prohibition views extend beyond just cannabis.
There is no precise definition of what constitutes a “soft drug” as compared to a “hard drug,” but some analysts categorize substances like LSD, psilocybin and MDMA in the former category in light of their lack of addictive potential.
Nadler is currently the top ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal law enforcement agencies involved in drug enforcement and prosecution. If Democrats take control of the House in the midterm elections, as many poll watchers predict, he would likely ascend to the panel’s chairmanship and have the power to bring marijuana and other drug reform bills up for a vote.
Also in the radio interview, Nadler called the war on drugs an “abject failure” that is “not succeeding in reducing crime or doing anything else.”
“We ought to look at drugs as a public health issue.”
The comments came shortly after another key Democrat, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), released an eight-page memo to fellow party members laying out a step-by-step strategy for how they can accomplish federal marijuana legalization in 2019 if they take control of one or both chambers of Congress. The plan includes a hearing on marijuana descheduling before the Judiciary Committee.
When it comes to marijuana, Nadler sees it as “far less damaging than nicotine to people’s health and we should probably regulate it similarly,” he said in the interview, adding that its current restrictive Schedule I status “doesn’t make any sense.”
Photo courtesy of David.