Five statewide issues — including three legalizing medical marijuana — will be on November ballot | St. Louis Public Radio

Five statewide issues — including three legalizing medical marijuana — will be on November ballot

Aug 2, 2018

Missourians will get three different chances this fall to legalize medical marijuana — as well as potentially raise Missouri’s minimum wage and alter the process for state legislative redistricting.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced on Thursday that five items gathered enough signatures to appear on the November ballot. Three deal with legalizing medical marijuana, and one would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2023.

Perhaps the one that’s drawn the most attention is Clean Missouri, which would curtail lobbyist gifts, make small changes to the state’s campaign-finance laws and revamp how state House and Senate districts are drawn.

Currently, a bipartisan commission is tasked with drawing House and Senate districts — with appellate judges making the final call if Republicans and Democrats can’t come to a final map. Clean Missouri would have the state auditor and Missouri Senate leaders choose a demographer that would have to draw districts under specific criteria.

Clean Missouri’s Sean Soendker Nicholson said his initiative will lead to more competitive elections across the state.

“This puts voters first where there’s more competition and there’s more elections where people can get fired up,” he said during an episode of Politically Speaking last month.

But detractors of Clean Missouri say the proposal is a scheme to craft legislative districts that are more favorable to Democrats. A group that’s led by U.S. Sen. Jim Talent was formed last week to oppose the initiative. Typically, ballot items with organized opposition have a more difficult pathway to being implemented.

Some critics of Clean Missouri have also contended it runs afoul of a constitutional prohibition against ballot items that have too many subjects. Soendker Nicholson dismissed that contention, noting that all of the aspects of Clean Missouri have to do with the Missouri General Assembly.

Medical-marijuana taxes

The fact that three different medical-marijuana initiatives made the ballot could create some confusion if more than one of them get enough votes.

Two of the proposals are constitutional amendments, while one is a statutory change. Missouri’s Constitution says “when conflicting measures are approved at the same election, the one receiving the largest affirmative vote shall prevail.”

The initiatives have significant differences. One constitutional amendment, known as New Approach Missouri, would enact a 4-percent tax that would go toward veterans programs. Another constitutional amendment primarily would place a 15-percent tax going toward a medical-research institute. The final measure, which is a statutory change, would put in place a 2-percent tax for veterans services, drug treatment, early childhood education and for public safety in cities with a medical-marijuana facility.

Ashcroft told St. Louis Public Radio in June that if multiple medical-marijuana initiatives end up passing, it will likely be up to the courts to decide what actually gets implemented.  

“It will not be clear enough to stop it from going to court,” Ashcroft said. “There are rules, and people will disagree about how clear they are.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum