“What I do want to see is some oversight into how those [cannabis tax] funds are distributed.”
By Joe Mueller, The Center Square
Missouri voters would decide if the disbursement of medical marijuana tax revenue should remain with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) or be transferred to the General Assembly under a proposal in the legislature.
House Joint Resolution 142, sponsored by Rep. Jason Chipman (R), would give voters a chance to change Article XIV in the Missouri Constitution. In November 2018, 66 percent of Missouri voters approved Amendment 2 to legalize the medical use of cannabis. The ballot language stated the amendment would “impose a four percent tax on the retail sale of marijuana for medical purposes by dispensary facilities. The funds from the license fees and tax will be used by the Missouri Veterans Commission for health and care services for military veterans, and by the Department of Health and Senior Services to administer the program to license/certify and regulate marijuana and marijuana facilities.”
Chipman told the House Veterans Committee his amendment is necessary as it properly aligns the legislature’s appropriation authority with the Missouri Constitution.
“All I want to do is put some oversight into the department that oversees the program over DHSS,” Chipman said. “The legislature has the power of the purse and the way this was written, it completely skips by the legislature and there’s no oversight of the department in regards to how they function and regulate this industry.”
Chipman’s resolution calls for DHSS’ administrative costs to be limited to two percent of all medical marijuana taxes and fees but said it would be amended after discussions with the director and legal counsel for the state’s medical marijuana program.
“I have no intent on changing the industry itself, the structure that they have set up, and I definitely don’t have any intention on changing the money that goes to the veterans,” Chipman said. “But what I do want to see is some oversight into how those funds are distributed to the department to administer the program.”
Rep. Tim Taylor (R) questioned the necessity of legislative oversight.
“Those people who know the best things to be done for our veterans are doing that now,” Taylor said. “By putting us in the way, we would just be adding one more rung in the ladder of bureaucracy.”
Lyndall Fraker, a former state representative and the state’s medical marijuana program director, testified that the department welcomes oversight. He said the constitutional amendment required all overhead costs to be taken from the sales tax revenue. He estimated $10.5 million in tax revenue was collected on $260 million in sales, in addition to revenue from other fees associated with licensing and applications. He projected the Veterans Commission would receive $27 million during the first two years of sales.
“We do have oversight now,” Fraker said. “We have to go before the budget committee. The funding is dedicated, but they approve how much we transfer to the veterans.”
Chipman’s resolution also expands the disbursements to include suicide prevention and construction of additional veterans homes.