New Approach to get head start on medical marijuana ballot measure

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Last year, Missouri’s medical marijuana measure fell just 23 signatures short of making the November ballot. Now, the same group will hope to have just slightly better luck in the 2018 election.

New Approach Missouri announced they would begin their signature collection this month for Initiative Petition 2018-051, which would make Missouri the 29th state to allow physicians to prescribe cannabis for medical purposes. It would also regulate the drug and provide constitutional guidelines for facilities that grow or distribute the drug.

Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for New Approach, said the organization only began collecting signatures in Feb. 2016 for the May 2016 deadline.  The group will now have an additional year to collect signatures, though Cardetti said they would still only gather signatures from the same Congressional districts they did in the past.

The group will need approximately 160,000 signatures to make the ballot.

Currently, cannabis, aka marijuana, is a Schedule I substance under federal law alongside heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, making it one of the most controlled substances in the United States and deemed to have “no medical use.” However, multiple states have now allowed the medical use of marijuana and a handful have even legalized it for recreational use. Cardetti noted Florida, South Dakota and Arkansas, all conservative-leaning states, approved of medical marijuana ballot measures in 2016.

“If it can get passed on the ballot in those states, there’s no reason to think voters won’t approve it here,” Cardetti said. He added that without a competing measure in the General Assembly, New Approach could see more support given its status as the sole option.

The proposal would set a four percent sales tax on marijuana to fund veterans’ health care. Tom Mundell, the chairman of the Missouri Association of Veterans’ Organizations, has become an advocate for marijuana reform, and he believes this measure will help veterans.

“We can dramatically improve the lives of thousands of Missouri veterans by passing this critical medical marijuana initiative petition,” Mundell said in a statement. “Our proposal will both provide veterans suffering illnesses much-needed relief and provide resources for underfunded veterans health care programs throughout Missouri.”

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