DAVID ROSMAN: It's time to join 30 states and legalize medical marijuana

David Rosman

With less than a month until the general midterm election, we have another set of initiatives to consider on the ballot. It has been a while since Missouri seriously considered a marijuana issue on the ballot or in the legislature. Now we have three.

I have never been a big fan of the legalization of marijuana, believing that the intake of nicotine found in cannabis is as lethal as tobacco. However, we have long lost the war on drugs and marijuana and have incarcerated far too many for the nonviolent crime of simple possession.

It is time that Missouri joins the 30 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical marijuana.

On Nov. 6, you will have three initiatives concerning marijuana to consider: Two are constitutional amendments, and one is a change in statute. The confusion comes from the fact that you can vote “yes” on all three. They did not coordinate the measures for your consideration.

For a good breakdown of the proposed law and two amendments, please visit Molly Nagel’s excellent graphic of Sept. 26, 2018. It clearly shows some of the differences in the three ballot issues and how they tend to contradict each other in terms of taxes and scope.

However, there are a few things Molly did not include in her graphic.

The New Approach Missouri Amendment 2 is very specific as to what diseases would be covered under the new amendment: “One of ten specified medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy, chronic pain, PTSD and Parkinson’s.” The other two do not have such restrictions.

New Approach has the lower tax of the two amendments at 4 percent. As a positive, New Approach is the only initiate that would permit patients to grow their own marijuana for personal use only and not for resale, paying a $100 licensing fee.

The Department of Health and Senior Services would be the regulatory body for Amendment 2.

Amendment 3 is sponsored by Find the Cure, having the majority of the funds provided by attorney and physician Brad Bradshaw. According to the Riverfront Times, the proposal is a bit “ambitious,” establishing a research institute with a “nine-person research board led by Bradshaw himself” as a new regulatory government agency.

Amendment 3 has the highest tax schedule, at 15 percent, for the sale of marijuana. A portion of the revenue collected, estimated at $66 million, would go to veteran services, while the rest would go to Bradshaw’s research institute.

Though I like the idea of a 15 percent tax, I am not crazy about the self-serving aspect of Dr. Bradshaw’s amendment.

If both amendments pass, the one with the highest positive vote totals will be the winner.

The third proposal is a change in state statute, which is much easier to amend through legislation than a constitutional amendment. Proposition C, the Missourians for Patient Care Act, has both the lowest tax rate (2 percent) and lowest income for the state, estimated at about $10 million, which happens to be the estimated cost of implantation.

The revenue, estimated to be just over $150,000, would go to veteran programs, drug treatment, early childhood education and public safety. The primary sponsor is St. Louis megadonor Rex Sinquefield.

Here’s the rub. There is little research in the medical community as to the effects of cannabis on treating chronic pain, nausea, anxiety and depression. According to Dr. David Reuben, the Archstone professor of medicine and geriatrics at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, the marijuana bought at dispensaries is not FDA regulated, as are prescribed drugs.

This means that doses would be self-administered and not uniform. However, the research that has been conducted suggests that there are positive result from the use of cannabis and cannabinoids in treating pain and nausea.

In Colorado, once the excitement died down about the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, there have been numerous but sometimes contradictory studies concerning the effects on the crime rates in the state. Yet, there is no proof that Colorado has become a “dystopian hellscape of childhood drug addiction, disappointing taxing revenue and stoned drivers presenting a constant threat on the highways.”

Adding language to our already bloated state Constitution is wrong. I prefer to pass statutory legislation that can be changed as the circumstances require.

Though Proposition C’s 2 percent tax is certainly low, it can always be increased at a later date. I recommend voting “No” on both Amendments 2 and 3 and “Yes” on Proposition C.

David Rosman is an editor, writer and professional speaker. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and InkandVoice.com.