Cannabis advocates in Missouri have been fighting like caged animals for the past several years to usher in some level of pot reform. But the typical politically gobbledygook and other snags courtesy of a system hell-bent on preventing legal weed from taking hold in their neck of the wood has prevented any significant change from settling in. Until now. Missouri voters turned out to the polls on Tuesday to put a stop to decades of total prohibition in the Show-Me State. Missouri is now the 31st state in the nation to legalize marijuana for patients with a variety of health conditions.
Although three uniquely designed medical marijuana initiatives were represented on the ballot, the people set their sights on one measure in particular — Amendment 2. The proposal, which was approved by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent, gives patients the ability to participate as long as they have permission from a doctor.
But rather than having to fall in line with some definitive list of qualified conditions, Amendment 2 leaves that detail up to the discretion of the medical professional. This means if a physician believes medical marijuana might benefit someone experiencing some occasional pain, the state must cough up a medical marijuana card. Think California back before its recreational market took hold.
Aside from having the luxury of stepping inside a dispensary to purchase several ounces of pot each month, Missouri patients will also be permitted to grow their own medical marijuana gardens. The law gives qualified patients the freedom to cultivate up to six plants at home for personal use.
“Thanks to the unflagging efforts of patients and advocates, Missourians who could benefit from medical marijuana will soon be able to use it without fear of being treated like criminals,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an emailed statement. “We hope lawmakers will implement the measure efficiently and effectively to ensure qualified patients can gain access to their medicine as soon as possible.”
The critical difference between Missouri’s three medical marijuana initiatives was taxes — specifically, how the pot-related tax revenue should be distributed. Amendment 2 comes with a 4 percent tax on all marijuana sales, with those funds going to assist military veterans. The other two called for both higher and lower tax schemes with the money being used to fund things like cancer research, addiction centers and early childhood education. These proposals also came with fewer freedoms than Amendment 2. One would have come with a definite list of qualified conditions while the other would have banned home cultivation.
The media sort of alluded early on that Missouri voters might be confused when faced with choosing between three different medical marijuana programs. But judging from the outcome of the state’s latest victory, voters did not enter the polls blind. The majority of the voters understood exactly which medical marijuana program they wanted. Cannabis advocates believe this is a testament of just how dedicated the American population is becoming to bringing down marijuana prohibition.
“There is near-universal support in the U.S. for providing seriously ill patients with legal access to medical cannabis,” Schweich said. “Most voters, regardless of their age, geographic location, or political persuasion, recognize the medical benefits of marijuana and believe it should be available to those who can benefit from it. Now that more than 30 states have enacted comprehensive medical marijuana laws, it is time for Congress to step up and address the issue at the federal level.”
That could happen soon. With the Democrats back in control of the U.S. House, there is hope that the issue of federal legalization will gain some traction in 2019.
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