Three Medical Marijuana Ballot Questions - An Explainer

If you are a Missouri voter you may have noticed that there are three different items on the ballot that aim to legalize medical marijuana. I believe that it’s time for the residents of our state to have legal access to marijuana to treat a variety of ailments, from chronic pain to epilepsy.

Figuring out which one to vote for is a bit tricky, though. For the tl;dr version, here is my recommendation:

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Amendment 2 - New Approach Missouri Yes

Amendment 3 - Find the Cures No

Proposition C - Missourians for Patient Care No

Why don’t I just vote yes on all three to be sure?

Well, let’s compare the three by their intent.

Prop C and Amendment 2 are relatively similar in their intent. Both will put the Department of Health and Senior Services in charge of regulating medical marijuana. Both generate revenue through a modest sales tax that will primarily support veteran services. There are some minor differences in the details but the intent is largely the same between Prop C and Amendment 2.

There is a fundamental difference, however. Under Proposition C, medical marijuana would be legalized by statute whereas Amendment 2 adds protection of medical marijuana into the Missouri Constitution. And for that reason I recommend Amendment 2 over Proposition C. More on that later if you want to get into the weeds (no pun intended).

Now let’s look at Amendment 3. This one charges a 15% sales tax on medical marijuana (compared to 4% in Amendment 2) and the money goes to medical research. And unlike the other two proposals that call for DHSS to regulate medical marijuana, this one creates a new state agency to oversee the program. And the text of the amendment would put Brad Bradshaw, the primary backer of the initiative in charge of that agency.

The tax rate is shockingly high and the regulatory framework is troubling with Amendment 3. For these reasons I encourage you to vote no and Amendment 3.

Okay, but why not vote yes on Prop C and Amendment 2 to be sure?

If voters approve two ore more conflicting amendments on the same ballot, the one with the highest number of votes is adopted into law. So no big deal. However, an affirmative vote for an amendment and a proposition with conflicting language on the same ballot becomes more problematic. From Ballotpedia:

If two conflicting constitutional amendments, such as Amendment 2 and Amendment 3, are approved, the one receiving the most affirmative votes prevails.[2] State law does provide a protocol for when voters approve statutes, such as Proposition C, and amendments, such as Amendment 2 and Amendment 3, that are in conflict. Speaking to a similar issue regarding tobacco tax initiatives in 2016, the attorney general's office said the issue would need to be decided in court.

Now if you need any further reason to vote yes on Amendment 2 and no on Prop C, let’s examine the distinction between the two types of ballot questions - amendments and propositions.

Propositions

The Missouri Constitution (not to be confused with the U.S. Constitution) offers a way for voters of the state to directly change state statutes - the laws governing the state. Most often statutes are proposed, debated, and adopted by the General Assembly (the state House of Representatives and the state Senate) and then signed by the governor. But since things can get a little gridlocked in Jefferson City, the citizens often petition to put a new statute on the ballot - this ballot question is called a proposition. Propositions can also be put to a statewide vote by the General Assembly - the Constitution requires any tax increase to go to a vote, for example. A proposition requires just a simple majority of the statewide vote to pass. And because the new law is just a change to the state statutes, the General Assembly can vote to repeal the new law at some point in the future and then pass the bill to the Governor to sign into law.

Amendments

These are ballot questions that change the state Constitution itself. They can be added to the ballot a few different ways. Most commonly they are initiated through a petition process or they are added by the Missouri General Assembly. Amendments always have to be approved by a vote of the people with a simple majority. The General Assembly cannot amend the constitution without a vote of the people - this is an important distinction for the discussion about medical marijuana.

To prevent a legal battle between two good laws and to ensure that medical marijuana cannot be repealed without a vote of the people, I recommend voting yes on Amendment 2 and no on Proposition C.