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The 3 medical marijuana bills distilled

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Missouri voters will have three different options to pass medical marijuana into law Nov. 6. And if multiple ballot initiatives pass, the one with the most “yes” votes would prevail, according to Missouri state statutes.

All three – Amendment 2, Amendment 3 and Proposition C – would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes but create different regulations and procedures.

“Medical marijuana will pass this November. The real question is which one will pass,” said Jack Cardetti, campaign consultant for St. Louis-based nonprofit New Approach Missouri.

The organizer behind Amendment 2, New Approach Missouri has raised $1.3 million to campaign this year, according to Missouri Ethics Commission data.

Amendment 2 would impose a 4 percent tax on retail sales of medical marijuana. The bulk, or 75 percent, of revenues would fund health care services and housing for military veterans through the Missouri Veterans Commission, Cardetti said.

Amendment 2 is estimated to generate $18 million in taxes and fees for veterans’ programs and $6 million for local governments annually. Operating costs are estimated to be $7 million annually, according to the ballot language.

Amendment 3, backed by Springfield lawyer and surgeon Dr. Brad Bradshaw, would impose a 15 percent tax rate on the retail sales of marijuana, along with a $9.25 tax on the wholesale of marijuana flowers and a $2.75 tax on leaves per dry-weight ounce, according to ballot language.

Bradshaw is the largest financial contributor to Amendment 3, committing nearly all of the $1.76 million raised by nonprofit Find The Cures, according to MEC data.

The Bradshaw-supported amendment is projected to generate $66 million in taxes and fees with an initial implementation fee of $186,000, according to ballot language.

Bradshaw said revenue from Amendment 3 would be used for the creation of an independent research institute to develop cures for cancer and other medical diseases and conditions.

While the institute’s operating costs would be $500,000, the ballot language spells out about $33 million of the revenue would go into a general account. The other half of revenue collected during the first five years would be split between a land acquisition account and a targeted disease account. The research board then decides how funds are distributed, according to the ballot language.

Prop C would impose a 2 percent retail sales tax on medical marijuana to fund veterans’ services, drug treatment, early childhood education and public safety in cities with a medical marijuana facility. Each category would receive a half percent of the tax.

Prop C is backed by Missourians for Patient Care, which has raised $1.39 million this year, according to MEC data.

“The Department of Revenue would disperse the funds,” said Mark Habbas, volunteer spokesman for Missourians for Patient Care. “We view cannabis as a medicine. That’s why we have the lowest tax and administrative costs.”

The proposition would generate $10.1 million annually with yearly costs of $10 million and a one-time initial cost of $2.6 million, according to ballot language.

“We wanted to increase patient access to cannabis, with the lowest cost,” Habbas said.

Regulating the leaves
Each initiative has different regulatory bodies for medical marijuana licensing.

The substance would be regulated by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services under Amendment 2.

“It’s the most common-sense approach, putting health care back in the hands of doctors and patients where it should be,” Cardetti said.

If Find The Cures’ Amendment 3 passes, it establishes a nine-member research board with a coordinator serving three-to-six-year terms overseeing the licenses and funds generated.

Bradshaw would serve as interim coordinator and select the founding board members. The ballot language states the coordinator position would be terminated from the board once the nine seats are filled.

A nonpartisan five-member selection committee would then elect new board members. Bradshaw said he has talked to medical school deans and scientists about joining the board, if Amendment 3 passes.

“One person who is a Nobel Prize winner in medicine has expressed interest,” Bradshaw said, declining to disclose the name of the individual.

Under Missourians for Patient Care’s Prop C, the Missouri branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would be designated as the licensing authority.

“Really, the intent is for ATF and local authorities to look at who has the licenses and allow a fair advantage,” Habbas said. “No specific group can own more than three licenses.”

Amendment 2 has an anti-monopoly provision to keep out large corporate tobacco, pharmaceutical and alcohol companies, said Chip Sheppard, a board member of New Approach Missouri and a local lawyer with Carnahan, Evans, Cantwell and Brown PC.

“We don’t want anybody to control the market,” Sheppard said. “No one ownership group can have more than three cultivation facilities, three extraction facilities and five dispensary licenses statewide.”

Sheppard said he became affiliated with New Approach Missouri through a college student who was collecting signatures for Show-Me Cannabis in 2016.

Amendment 3 limits licenses to five per individual, group of individuals or an entity, according to the ballot language.

While Amendment 3 and Prop C provide a clause for cities and counties to vote to opt out of permitting medical marijuana sales, Amendment 2 does not.

Testing and license fees
Independent batch testing of medical marijuana is required for two of the three ballot measures.

Find The Cures’ Amendment 3 does not specifically require independent testing in its ballot language.

Sheppard said Amendment 2 would test for pesticides, herbicides, potency and any other toxins.

Under Amendment 2 and Prop C, organizers stress testing by independent, state-accredited drug labs.

“The labs cannot be owned by anybody who possesses a license,” Habbas said.

Prop C has a one-time $25,000 license application fee for dispensaries, grow facilities and sellers of marijuana-infused products, Habbas said.

The license grants permission to operate in all three areas under Prop C.

Under Amendment 3, a license would cost $20,000 the first year and $10,000 annually for each renewal.

Amendment 2 has an application fee of $25,000 a year for cultivation centers and a one-time $10,000 fee for extraction plants and dispensaries, Sheppard said.

Legal issues
While the three groups will be competing on the ballot, they’ve already faced each other in the courtroom.

Bradshaw filed a lawsuit in September in the Cole County Circuit Court claiming New Approach Missouri and Missourians for Patient Care violated the legal requirements to gather signatures. The case was thrown out by Judge Pat Joyce, and the ruling was upheld in the Missouri Court of Appeals on Sept. 12.

Also, Bradshaw currently is facing tax liens against him totaling roughly $119,500.

“The federal government misapplied taxes to the wrong account,” Bradshaw said of the $31,375 federal lien filed in April.

He said the other, an $88,166 state tax lien from November 2017, was due to an error by an accountant who has since been fired.

“I had a tax accountant who was applying to the state of Missouri and he applied tax credits to the wrong years,” he said. “We’re still arguing a couple of them.”

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