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.