Medical marijuana will make its first appearance on Missouri ballots

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JEFFERSON CITY - Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft signed off on three medical marijuana petitions Thursday that will show up on Missouri's midterm elections. This is the first time medical marijuana will appear on the Missouri ballots.

Two of the amendments would change Missouri's constitution to allow for medical marijuana use, creating regulations and licensing for marijuana and marijuana facilities.

The difference between them is the percent of taxes collected on medical marijuana sales and what the tax generated funds from medical marijuana sales would benefit.

The first proposed amendment, petition number 2018-041, would impose a 15 percent retail tax and a tax on medical marijuana facilities buying wholesale supplies.

The estimated income for that amendment one is $66 million, which would fund the establishment of a state research institute for developing cures and treatments for cancer and other incurable disease.

The second proposed amendment, petition number 2018-051, would impose a four percent retail tax and no wholesale tax.

It's expected to generate about $24 million annually and cost $7 million. The funds would go towards health care and other services for military veterans in Missouri. Tax generated funds would also go to administering a program to license and regulate marijuana and marijuana facilities. 

The third option on the ballot, petition number 2018-271, is an amendment to Missouri statutes. 

State government estimates a two percent retail tax would generate at least $10 million. The funds generated would go to veteran's services, drug treatment, early childhood education and public safety initiatives in cities with a medical marijuana facility.

Attorney Bill Tackett said the difference between having an amendment to the constitution and an amendment to a statute is based on the number of votes it takes to get either option passed.

It takes a higher percentage of signatures to get a petition for a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Tackett said historically it's harder to get people to vote to change the constitution because of the looming prominence of the constitution.

"Nobody really wants the constitution to change, unless there's some real big need to do it," Tackett said.

The specific language of the proposed amendments is up for legal challenge for 10 days.

Voters can vote yes to all three options if they choose. 

Both proposed constitutional amendments could pass, but Tackett said the amendment with the majority of votes will prevail. 

If either constitutional amendment passes and the statutory amendment also passes it is assumed in court the constitutional amendment trumps the statutory option, Tackett said.

He said amendments to the constitution or state statutes often times are as important, if not more important, than the actual election. 

"It's something you have to focus on very heavily because there was a ton of politics that went on before that thing hit your ballot," Tackett said.

The secretary of state will issue a final certification of the November general election ballot no later than Aug. 28.