By Missouri State Rep. Tommie Pierson (D-North St. Louis County)
As a contender for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor and a sitting State Representative, I’ve got a unique perspective on an issue that is of increasing importance in this political cycle: medical cannabis. That’s because my primary opponent, Springfield attorney/physician Brad Bradshaw, is running electoral and initiative campaigns advancing a dangerous agenda attempting to hijack the overwhelming positive sympathy of Missourians in support of medical cannabis for the purpose of expanding the powers of the office of the Lieutenant Governor, creating a new state agency with new tax revenues and eminent domain powers, and establishing Constitutional oligopolies on cannabis commerce.
Various polls show that as many as 80% of Missourians support the notion that the government should not interfere in the doctor-patient relationship with respect to medically necessary cannabis therapeutics. Indeed, it now seems inevitable that this popular sentiment will soon be expressed in law — the only question is who will do it and how.
And it’s here where my wealthy self-funding opponent has seized the opportunity to package a set of dangerous ideas in an initiative petition nominally about legalizing medical cannabis. Bradshaw’s initiative petition 2016-128 would create a new state agency, the “Research and Drug Development Institute” to “find cures for presently incurable diseases”. This Institute would operate “under the direction of the Lieutenant Governor” and the Lieutenant Governor would appoint the Research Board governing the day-to-day operations of the Institute. The Research Board’s powers are wide and varied, and include the ability to sell revenue bonds to finance the operation of the Institute. The Research Board would also license and regulate the medical marijuana industry and derive revenues from license fees associated with commercial marijuana operations (such fees are $50000 for the first year and may be increased each successive year). The legislation also prioritizes license applications from pharmacists and health care providers, creating a Constitutionally unequal playing field for ordinary entrepreneurs (and ensuring there will be virtually no minority access to this industry). Additionally, the legislation allows for the Research Board to seize private property for the physical building housing the Institute through eminent domain in as many as 5 unique sites after having put such a question to the voters of the counties where such land may be located. Finally, the Research Board may enter into partnerships and revenue-sharing agreements with other private or public organizations.
- This legislation threatens private property owners by creating a Constitutional regime for eminent domain takings
- This legislation would create a Constitutional oligopoly where ordinary Missourians would find it virtually impossible to start businesses, deploy capital investments, or enter the cannabis industry
- This legislation creates a new state agency with a dedicated revenue stream controlled by the office of the Lieutenant Governor and without any accountability from any other branch of government
- This legislation taxes medical cannabis at 85%
Instead of allowing this travesty to proceed unimpeded, the Missouri Legislature should follow the recommendation of Jackson County Sheriff and incoming Missouri Sheriffs Association President Mike Sharp, who says:
“If a licensed medical doctor sees a need for the use of medical cannabis to improve the quality of life, that should be up to the doctor and the individual,” he says, adding that his nephew deserved at least a chance to try the treatment. “If this could help him have one good day, why wouldn’t I support that?”
With Bradshaw funding a multi-million dollar coordinated electoral and initiative campaigns to grow government and increase economic inequality, it’s time for the Missouri General Assembly to show leadership and bring together the diverse stakeholders necessary to implement medical cannabis in this state properly.