(St. Joseph,MO) During the general election Missourians will have the chance to vote on not one, but three ballot initiatives in support of medical marijuana. Two constitutional amendments and one proposition would allow for the growth, manufacturing, consumption and sale of medicinal marijuana.
Amendment 2, sponsored by the group New Approach Missouri, would impose a four percent sales tax on the purchase of medicinal marijuana to be used for veteran services. The proposed amendment is expected to cost $7 million in annual operations and generate $18million for veterans programs and approximately $6 million for local governments.
Amendment 3, sponsored by the group Find the Cure and Springfield attorney Brad Bradshaw, would impose a 15 percent sales tax on medicinal marijuana, with the revenue being used to create the Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute. The proposed ammented is expected to cost $186,000 for the first year and an increased annual operating cost of $500,000.Amendment 3 is expected to generate $66million in annual revenue.
Proposition C, sponsored by Missourians for Patient Care,would impose a two percent sales tax on medicinal marijuana with revenues being split between veteran healthcare, early childhood education, drug treatment and public safety. Proposition C would also require local municipalities to support medicinal marijuana, before the products can be sold in the area.
The proposition is expected to have a $2.6million startup cost with an annual operational cost of $10million. Proposition C is expected to bring in approximately $10million in revenues for the state and $152,000 in revenues for local governments.
Local attorney Lance Davis is a supporter of Amendment 2 and said voters should avoid the “all of the above choice” when casting their votes.
"It's important that people just don't vote for all three of those measures, because they are watering down the actual voice of the people for any one of those and it's important for the people to understand the distinctions,"Davis said.
All proposals would make medicinal marijuana available for patients with Cancer, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), chronic pain or terminal illnesses. Similar to the medical marijuana practices of other states, patients who qualify would be issued a state photo ID to purchase or prescribe medicinal marijuana.
"The medical purposes that would benefit veterans and others in the state, but it also would bring jobs to the state and those are additional benefits that haven't been calculated quite yet,"Davis said.
Shawn Collie, Captain of the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force, said he is concerned about how the marijuana will be regulated and how it will impact law enforcement.
"There are so many things you have to start changing and looking at. The training on the law enforcement side, on the government side is regulating that,” Collie said. “From the regulation of it to the enforcement side of it, it will be a learning curve for everybody."
Collie is concerned that legalization could increase the illegal traffic of marijuana and marijuana products in the community.
"We start seeing the black market side of it or the street level side of it where individuals are growing the marijuana and selling it to a dispensary, but the money maker side of it may be selling to people illegally outside of that area," Collie said. “What we see is people who go out and buy 10 pounds and bring it back and they’re selling the 10 pounds. The price for marijuana has gone up drastically over the last several years. Marijuana used to be $800 a pound, now it can be $4,000 or $5,000 a pound depending on the quality and the level of THC.”
Local law enforcement agencies use Drug Recognition Experts (DRE), officers trained to detect what type of substance a person might be under, in the field and Collie said the passing of new marijuana legislation could put a strain on law enforcement.
“Not every officer or deputy or trooper is trained in that. So know you are going to have to create training for everybody which is going to be an increase in demand on law enforcement,” Collie said.
Ultimately, it will be left for voters to decide how Missouri moves forward with marijuana laws during the general election on Tuesday, November 6.
"All of this doesn't matter if we don't get out to vote on November 6. It is a matter of individual choice and individual liberty which should effect every one of us," Davis said.
If all three initiatives pass, the initiative with the largest margin of voters will go into effect. If approved by voters, Davis estimates medicinal marijuana dispensaries could be active in Missouri within a year.