Marijuana Initiative Gets Major Interest

Anita Campbell
County Reporter
Missouri supporters of medical marijuana will have their say in the November 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.
According to local physician Dr. Donald Allcorn of Lincoln, citizens should vote no on all three proposals.
“There are no proven benefits to smoking marijuana,” said Allcorn . “The Missouri Medical Association has taken a stand against all three proposals because of the lasting effects of smoking marijuana.”
Allcorn explained that children who smoke even one marijuana stick can experience a permanent drop in their IQ.  Long term effects in adults smoking marijuana leads to a reduction in cognitive skills.  Many of the people who develop severe drug habits such as heroin or cocaine stated with a marijuana habit. 
Allcorn went on to say that if a person wants to use marijuana for pain then an oral medicine containing marijuana can be prescribed.
 Marinol is FDA approved medication for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and anorexia from AIDS. Currently, there is no FDA-approved medical indication for prescribing marijuana.
Marinol is a synthetic form of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), as its active ingredient.
THC is a natural component of the marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa, and it’s psychoactive, which means it attaches to chemical receptors in your brain and produces a feeling of euphoria, or what we call a “high”. Oral dronabinol is the chemically manufactured form of THC that is FDA-approved to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (in patients who didn’t respond well to conventional nausea and vomiting treatment), as well as anorexia related to weight loss in patients with AIDS.
Both Marinol and dronabinol come in capsules of 2.5 mg, 5 mg and 10 mg strengths. The medication takes about 30 minutes to an hour to start working, with peak effects at 2 to 4 hours.
Marinol is approved by the FDA for medical uses, whereas marijuana has not been approved for any medical use at all at the federal level. In states where medical marijuana is legal, a healthcare practitioner provides an “authorization” for use that is considered by the federal courts to be protected physician-patient communication.
Additionally, Marinol, or dronabinol, does not contain all the components of the full marijuana plant. The medication is a synthesized version of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), one of over 60 cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa. Two cannabinoids in marijuana have been studied for medicinal uses: THC and cannabidiol.
But what happens if all three proposals are passed?
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 marijuana. 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, from a coalition of patients, doctors and veterans called New Approach Missouri, emphasizes the value of medical marijuana for veterans. Post-traumatic stress disorder is among the conditions that would qualify, and a 4 percent sales tax would go to a newly-created fund for health and care services for veterans. The sales tax revenue also would be used to administer 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 also is a medical doctor. It would impose a 15 percent tax on the retail sale of marijuana as well as a wholesale tax on the sale of marijuana flowers 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 nation on medical marijuana. 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. Bradshaw’s company was the subject of a $31,375 federal tax lien in April.
Bradshaw filed lawsuits that sought to have the other two measures removed from the ballot over petition signature issues. A judge in August tossed out the suit over Amendment 2. Bradshaw in September withdrew the case against the state law proposal, Proposition C.
Proposition C would impose a 2 percent tax on the sale of medical marijuana to be used for veteran services, drug treatment, early childhood education and public safety in cities with medical marijuana 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. E-mail and phone messages left with the PR and lobbying firm behind the petition drive were not returned, and an attorney involved in the effort declined comment.
Kevin Sabet, CEO of Washington-based Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said his group opposes all three Missouri measures.
Thirty other states have passed medical marijuana laws. Missouri legislative researchers have estimated that more than $100 million worth of medical marijuana could be sold annually if it becomes legal.
Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2009 and then legalized marijuana for other use in 2012.
According to the new report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area entitled “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact,” the impact of legalized marijuana in Colorado has resulted in:
1. The majority of DUI drug arrests involve marijuana and 25 to 40 percent were marijuana alone.
2. In 2012, 10.47 percent of Colorado youth ages 12 to 17 were considered current marijuana users compared to 7.55 percent nationally. Colorado ranked fourth in the nation, and was 39 percent higher than the national average.
3. Drug-related student suspensions/expulsions increased 32 percent from school years 2008-09 through 2012-13, the vast majority were for marijuana violations.
4. In 2012, 26.81 percent of college age students were considered current marijuana users compared to 18.89 percent nationally, which ranks Colorado third in the nation and 42 percent above the national average.
5. In 2013, 48.4 percent of Denver adult arrestees tested positive for marijuana, which is a 16 percent increase from 2008.
6. From 2011 through 2013 there was a 57 percent increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits.
7. Hospitalizations related to marijuana has increased 82 percent since 2008.
Even if Missourians approve the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes at the state level, cannabis would remain illegal at the federal level. Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance alongside heroin and many synthetic opioids.
The Benton County Enterprise asked several local, state and federal law enforcement officials whether they had a position on any of the medical marijuana measures as well as whether their offices have started planning for how to adapt if Missourians legalize marijuana for medical use. 
Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox: “The passage of any of the three proposals will make our job harder at the Sheriff’s office,” Knox said.  “When we pull over someone under the influence of alcohol we can easily determine whether or not that person is driving under the influence by having the person take a breath test but when we pull over someone who is high what would the test be?  Also it will be harder to police the marijuana growers.”
The main objective is that voters need to be informed about the issues before they head to the polls on November 6.