By, Jim Salter
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri supporters of medical marijuana will have their say in the November 2018 election. The only question: Do they cast a yes vote once, twice, or three times?
Thanks to successful petition drives for three competing proposals, all three are on the ballot.
Two would amend the Missouri Constitution; the other would simply change state law.
What happens if more than one passes? That’s where things get sticky.
According to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, the constitutional amendments take precedence over the state law proposition. If both constitutional amendments pass, the one with the most “yes” votes takes effect.
But legal experts agree that passage of more than one measure will almost certainly result in a court fight. Former Missouri Solicitor General Jim Layton said one key issue remains unclear: If a measure passes but is nevertheless trumped by one of the others, would its non-conflicting provisions also become law?
Former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Wolff figures such nuances will be irrelevant to most voters.
“If they want medical marijuana, they’re going to vote for all three of them,” Wolff said.
All three would allow patients with cancer, HIV, epilepsy, and other conditions access to medical cannabis. The differences largely involve how marijuana would be regulated and taxed, and where the new tax dollars would go.
Backers of the two competing constitutional amendments are waging a bitter fight.
Amendment 2 vs. Amendment 3
Amendment 2, from a coalition of patients, doctors, and veterans called New Approach Missouri, emphasizes the value of medical cannabis for veterans. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is among the conditions that would qualify, and a 4 percent sales tax would go to a newly created fund for health-care services for veterans. The sales tax revenue also would be used to administer the licensing of medical marijuana businesses.
New Approach Missouri spokesman Jack Cardetti said the measure would “put the decision-making process back in the hands of doctors and patients when it comes to medical treatment options.”
The competing Amendment 3 effort is financed almost exclusively by Brad Bradshaw, a Springfield personal injury attorney who is also a medical doctor. It would impose a 15 percent tax on the retail sale of cannabis, as well as a wholesale tax on the sale of marijuana flower and leaves. Those funds would be used to create a new state institute to research “presently incurable diseases.”
Critics say the Amendment 3 tax would be far and away the highest in the U.S. on medical cannabis. Cardetti was critical of a provision in Amendment 3 that would give Bradshaw broad powers over operation of the new research institute, including choosing its board members.
Bradshaw, who has loaned $1.5 million to the Amendment 3 campaign, also is dealing with two tax liens amounting to more than $119,000. He and his wife were subjects of an $88,166 lien from the Missouri Department of Revenue in November 2017. Bradshaw’s company was the subject of a $31,375 federal tax lien in April 2018.
Bradshaw was traveling and unavailable for comment, a spokesman said. His attorney, Kevin J. Kerr, said in a letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Bradshaw has a repayment plan with the state. Kerr blamed the federal lien on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) misapplying a corporate payroll payment, and said that matter will soon be resolved.
Bradshaw filed lawsuits that sought to have the other two measures removed from the ballot over petition signature issues. A judge in August 2018 tossed out the suit over Amendment 2. Bradshaw in September 2018 withdrew the case against Proposition C, the state law proposal.
Proposition C Backed by Little-Known Group
Proposition C would impose a 2 percent tax on the sale of medical marijuana to be used for veterans services, drug treatment, early childhood education, and public safety in cities with medical cannabis facilities.
Mystery surrounds its backers: Proposition C is supported by Missourians for Patient Care, a political action committee. It has not disclosed its financial supporters. Email and phone messages left with the public relations and lobbying firm behind the petition drive were not returned, and an attorney involved in the effort declined comment.
Kevin Sabet, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said his group opposes all three Missouri measures.
“We need to let science take the lead as opposed to sort of making this about medicine by popular vote,” Sabet said.
Thirty-one states and Washington, D.C., have passed medical cannabis laws. Missouri legislative researchers have estimated that more than $100 million worth of medical marijuana could be sold annually if it becomes legal.