By Rep. Shamed Dogan
Since being elected to the Missouri House in 2014, I have vocally supported efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill and urged my fellow Republicans to do the same. The issue was not a popular one initially, but I always believed that giving patients with debilitating medical conditions the freedom to make these decisions with their doctors was the right thing to do.
As legislators learned more about the issue, support grew steadily to the point that the House passed a medical marijuana bill by an overwhelming majority this spring. That bill, unfortunately, died in the Senate, but Missourians will have the opportunity to vote on medical marijuana this November. In fact, voters will be asked to consider three different medical marijuana proposals.
Of these options, I support Amendment 2 because it is the most simple and straightforward proposal. It gets the government out of our lives by placing the power for these important medical decisions back in the hands of patients and their doctors. It allows the Department of Health and Senior Services to enact regulations to ensure that marijuana is free of contaminants, labeled properly, and tracked to prevent diversion. Finally, the amendment imposes a modest four percent tax on medical marijuana that pays to regulate the program and fund badly needed services for Missouri veterans.
But the other medical marijuana amendment on the ballot, Amendment 3, presents a major threat to liberty and basic principles of constitutional government. Amendment 3 is almost entirely supported by personal injury attorney Brad Bradshaw, who has given more than a million and a half dollars to fund his campaign, and it would grant Bradshaw himself broad powers over the medical marijuana program and the collection and appropriation of its much higher tax.
It seems that for Bradshaw, medical marijuana is not primarily about giving sick people more medical options; it’s about using them to maximize tax revenues for his pet program. Amendment 3 would use its 15 percent tax rate — which would be the highest medical marijuana tax in the country — to create a medical research board. Medical research is undoubtedly a noble cause, but Bradshaw, who is not a research scientist, would write himself into the Constitution as the chair of that board. Even worse, he would give himself the power to appoint 9 directors to the board who would earn salaries equal to or greater than the Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice (currently $179,883).
This research board would not be subject to oversight by elected officials as all current state departments and agencies are. This would effectively make Bradshaw the czar of his own government with an annual budget of $66 million, funded by taxing the medicine of people suffering from cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, and other debilitating conditions. The research board would even have the power of eminent domain to seize the land where it wants to construct a medical research campus, putting the property rights of every Missourian at risk.
Thirty other states have enacted medical marijuana laws, and not a single one of them resembles anything close to what Amendment 3 requires. As a small government conservative, I proudly support medical marijuana and put the power over medical decisions in the hands of patients and their doctors where it belongs.
But that’s not what Amendment 3 is really about. It’s about giving one wealthy trial attorney a personal fiefdom financed by patients. That’s repugnant, and it’s why I urge all Missourians to support a reasonable medical marijuana law by voting Yes on 2 and reject Bradshaw’s power grab by voting No on 3.