Voters in Missouri ended decades of total marijuana prohibition as they approved a ballot measure to legalize the use of the drug for medical purposes.
This brings the total number of states with legal medical marijuana to 33, including another new addition: Utah. Just like Missouri, Utah also passed its own medical cannabis bill on Tuesday’s Midterm elections.
It was complicated
Missouri’s campaign to legalize medical pot was kinda complicated. There were three competing — and qualified — ballot initiatives. One was drafted by Find the Cures, one by New Approach Missouri, and another one by Missourians for Patient Care. Voters got to vote on any or all of the measures.
There were concerns that having three uniquely designed measures could lead to complications. If supporters only vote for one against the other two, this could split the votes and result to none of them passing at all. And if they vote for all three, more than one measure would pass and the court will have to step in to sort out the issue and decide on which one becomes law.
All’s well that ends well
The good thing is that voters apparently had their sights set on one measure — Amendment 2, pushed by New Approach. This measure, which is considered to be broadest of the three initiatives, had a 65% approval.
Amendment 2 was the only one of the three legalization efforts to allow qualified patients and caregivers to grow their own cannabis plants. More specifically, patients are allowed to grow up to six flowering marijuana plants and caregivers are allowed to grow 18 — subject to inspection by the state health department.
Amendment 2 will also allow patients to use medical cannabis as long as they have their doctor’s permission. And the good news is that instead of having patients line up with a definite list of qualified conditions, medical professionals are given the discretion to prescribe medical cannabis if they deem a patient needs it.
Amendment 2: Qualifying conditions
Amendment 2 will change the state’s constitution so as to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for any of 10 qualifying medical conditions. These conditions are:
- intractable migraines
- severe muscle spasms
- debilitating psychiatric disorders
- chronic medical condition that is conventionally treated with prescription medication that could lead to addiction
- any terminal ailment
- any medical condition that is determined by a physician to be chronic or debilitating
As you can see from the list, the last three are broad descriptions that give licensed doctors plenty of room to practice their expertise. In other words, doctors will be made the gatekeepers of the state’s medical cannabis program.
Patients will be required to obtain a note from their doctor certifying that they have a medical condition qualifying them to participate in the program.
Amendment 2: Taxes
Medical cannabis sales will be subject to a 4% state tax. The proceeds of this tax will help fund services for military veterans.
The state is expected to generate about $24 million a year from sales tax.
According to supporters of Amendment 2, the state is likely to have nearly 200 medical cannabis dispensaries by 2020. Under Amendment 2, each of Missouri’s eight congressional districts will be allowed to open a minimum of 24 dispensaries.
Only those with a qualifying patient card for the drug will be allowed inside these dispensaries.
Under Amendment 2, Missouri will issue at least 61 cannabis cultivation licenses, which means one cultivator license per 100,000 residents. Meanwhile, a minimum of 82 licenses will be issued to producers of cannabis-infused products, like oils, vapors, and edibles.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is in charge of issuing these licenses. Over time, the department can increase the number of licenses in order to accommodate the growing number of qualified patients.
Amendment 2 will technically take effect on Dec. 6. The state health department is also expected to issue license applications for patients, cultivators, caregivers, testing facilities, cannabis manufacturers, and dispensaries by early June 2019.
By July, the department is expected to receive and start processing applications from patients and by August, receive applications from dispensary operators and other commercial functions.