One of the three medical marijuana ballot measures in November’s election has drawn the most attention and endorsements.
Amendment 2 would tax sales of medical marijuana at 4%, raising $18 million a year which would go toward care for military veterans and to pay for the licensing and regulation of the businesses through the state Department of Health & Senior Sevices. It’s estimated operating cost to the state is $7 million annually.
Both Amendment 2 and Amendment 3 would change the state constitution to allow Medical marijuana while a third measure, Proposition C would change the law to allow its use. Amendment 3 and Proposition C have been relegated to a lower profile as Amendment 2 has racked up positive reviews from the state’s most influential newspapers.
The editorial boards of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Star, the Springfield News-Leader, the Joplin Globe and the St. Louis American have all expressed a preference for Amendment 2 over the other proposals. Amendment 2 has further been endorsed by the Epilepsy Foundation of Missouri and Kansas and Adolphus M. Pruitt, the president of St. Louis City NAACP.
In addition, the Missouri Chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has given a full-throated endorsement of Amendment 2. It’s the first such organization in the country to support a medical marijuana proposal.
Although some of the taxes collected from Proposition C would be used for veterans’ services, Amendment 2 stipulates that much of the proceeds from its tax on medical marijuana sales would be used by the Missouri Veterans Commission to provide services for military veterans.
The Missouri VFW held a press phone call recently with former service members to announce its embrace of the proposal. Tom Mundell is the former State Commander of the Department of Missouri, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
He said the organization rarely makes political endorsements but thinks medical marijuana could be a difference maker in the fight against addiction. “We have to get a control somehow on the opioid and drug issues that we’re having,” said Mundell. “And we feel that medical cannabis is the option that we need.”
Mundell indicated medical marijuana could help curb the number of veterans who commit suicide which he quoted at 22 per day.
Lieutenant Colonel Todd Scattini served in the United States Army for 27 years before retiring earlier this year. He said medical marijuana could address problems stemming from over-prescription of opioids to veterans and could help alleviate Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Scattini also contends it could prove to be successful in handling brain injuries. “I believe that medical cannabis and cannabis medicine is an effective way to treat traumatic brain injury, and eventually to mitigate and prevent traumatic brain injury which is a huge issue amongst, especially Army personnel,” said Scattini.
Kyle Kisner served in the military from 2004-2011, with tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He claims he overcame a struggle with opioid addiction by using medical marijuana. Kisner acknowledges a condition exists called marijuana use disorder but contends it presents very few dependency problems.
“What we’re seeing is that it’s less addictive than caffeine,” said Kisner. “Less than nine percent of people actually form marijuana use disorder. So, even with kind of a broad definition under that heading, we’re still seeing very low rates of addiction.”
Debbie Holmes is a United States Air Force Desert Storm veteran (1988-1992) who dealt with sexual trauma, cervical cancer, and knee replacement after leaving the military. She says that some strains of marijuana can help ease a wide range of veteran ailments. “Veterans have a lot of chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, PTSD,” said Holmes. “Depending on the strain you can address all of that with a single plant.”
Opponents of the medical marijuana ballot measures have started to campaign loudly as election day approaches. Among them is Joy Sweeney, a Doctor of Philosophy at Capella University in Minneapolis, who has lived in mid-Missouri’s Jefferson City for 15 years and is the Executive Director of Council for Drug-Free Youth.
Sweeney points out the major medical associations in the state are against the ballot measures because they don’t categorize marijuana as medicine. “If we’re talking about medicine, then we need to go to the people who specialize in medicine,” said Sweeney. “and all of them are saying this isn’t medicine.
The Kansas City Medical Society released a statement in mid-October stating it does not believe legalization of medical marijuana is in the best interest of the public and their health. It contends the current level of research on cannabis in medicine is inadequate.
Likewise, the St. Louis Metropolitan Medical Society, the Missouri State Medical Association and the Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons have gone on record as opposing the medical proposals. In its statement, the St. Louis Metropolitan Medical Society said it “opposes such measures until the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reclassifies marijuana to allow for increased scientific research.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for the first time in June, approved use of a cannabis-based medicine, one that is a chemical compound in the cannabis plant called cannabidiol, or CBD. Sweeney thinks the FDA must first approve medical marijuana before Missouri can be allowed to legalize it. “Legitimate medications are not voted on by people,” Sweeney said. “They have adequate safeguards and appropriate warning and they also have dosage and frequency requirements.”
Sweeney also points to an article published by the conservative-leaning Center for Marriage Policy called “The Costly Fraud of Marijuana Normalization.” Among many other things, the article contends big tobacco money is advancing marijuana for its own self-interest. “No economic impact study has ever been done either before or after legalization,” the article says. “Every state has a fiscal duty to assess these things in advance. This duty had been shirked by politicos bought and paid for by the powerful tobacco lobby now hawking pot.”
Another opposing view to medical marijuana comes from Dr. Norman Shealey of Shealy Wellness in Springfield. He told KOLR-TV that it severely hinders mental capacity and is habit-forming. “It destroys your ability to function and think straight,” said Shealey. “And it highly addicting. It is much more addicting than nicotine. And so, making it available for the few uses it has just opens the door, as it has with so many drugs, for misuse and abuse.”
Amendment 2 is the only one of the measures that allow patients to cultivate up to six plants and caretakers up to 18., although they would also have to register with the state and pay a $100 annual fee.
All three medical marijuana measures appear on Tuesday’s general election ballot.