By Carl Bearden
On Election Day, Missourians will be presented with not one, not two, but three options for medical marijuana: Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C. Polling and recent experience in other conservative states — Arkansas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, to name a few — strongly suggest that at least one of these measures will pass.
But regardless of how you feel about the issue of medical marijuana generally, I would urge all Missourians to oppose Amendment 3. Passing Amendment 3 would create an unmitigated disaster for the state of Missouri and our system of republican government.
First, Amendment 3 would soak medical marijuana patients with a punitive 15% tax. This would be the highest tax on medical marijuana in the entire country — twice the rate of ultra-liberal California! Amendment 3 is also the only measure that includes a wholesale tax. The principal goal of a medical marijuana program should not be generating tax dollars off the backs of sick people.
But what’s even worse is how those tax dollars would be spent. According to the fair ballot language prepared by the Secretary of State’s office, “This amendment makes Brad Bradshaw (the contact person on this initiative petition) the research chairperson of a newly created research institute that is funded by fees and taxes on medical marijuana. Brad Bradshaw will select the members of the board that will govern the research institute, which will issue regulations and licensing procedures for medical marijuana and medical marijuana facilities — dispensary, cultivation, and marijuana-infused product manufacturing facilities.”
Brad Bradshaw is a personal injury attorney from Springfield, who has almost solely funded the Amendment 3 campaign with $2 million of his own money. He is quite literally seeking to write himself into the state constitution and give himself control of an estimated $66 million in tax dollars. This research institute would not be subject to oversight from any executive agency or the state legislature; it would be Bradshaw’s personal fiefdom.
But despite lacking any kind of oversight from our elected representatives, the institute would still wield all the powers of the state. It could issue bonds in the name of the state and even use eminent domain to seize property that it deems appropriate for the construction of research centers.
By giving Bradshaw personal control over the medical marijuana program, all its tax dollars and eminent domain power, Amendment 3 seems designed for corruption, and the way Bradshaw has financed his campaign reinforces that notion. Instead of making direct contributions to his campaign, he has loaned his campaign the vast majority of the money it has spent that is supposed to be paid back with interest.
Furthermore, nothing in Amendment 3 would prevent Bradshaw from accepting campaign contributions after the election to repay those loans and then give contributors seats on the board that Bradshaw would handpick. Perhaps Bradshaw did not intend to create this loophole, but even if that’s the case, it points to poor drafting and the dangers inherent in granting broad and unchecked government powers to one person.
It seems inevitable that medical marijuana in some form is coming to Missouri, but it should not be through Amendment 3. Amendment 3 represents a threat to representational and limited government and deserves to fail overwhelmingly. Amendment 3 and its statutory/regulation language does not belong in our state constitution. On Election Day, no matter your opinion about medical marijuana, vote No on Amendment 3.
Carl Bearden previously served as the budget chair in the Missouri House of Representatives. He is currently the executive director for United for Missouri.