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Pro & Con: Will Missourians pass an initiative to legalize medical marijuana?

(L-R) Mike Colona, Brad Bradshaw, Jack Cardetti and Brandon Costerison debated the pros and cons of three competing ballot measures to legalize medical marijuana.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

As part of St. Louis Public Radio's "Inform Your Vote" ballot issues forum, Jack Cardetti, Brad Bradshaw, Mike Colona, and Brandon Costerison debated the pros and cons of Amendment 2Amendment 3 and Proposition C, the three competing ballot measures to legalize medical marijuana.

The conversation aired Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air, with Cardetti speaking in favor of Amendment 2, Bradshaw in favor of Amendment 3, Colona in favor of Prop C and Costerison of NCADA in opposition to all three measures.

Each guest provided opening remarks before host Don Marsh moderated an in-depth debate between the four, drawing in audience questions and comments as well. Each argument is summarized below.

Pro: Jack Cardetti, general consultant of New Approach Missouri, wants Missourians to vote 'yes' on Amendment 2

“Missourians are very passionate people. They want doctors and patients to be able to work together to determine their best medical treatment options … Amendment 2 is a coalition of veterans, patients, doctors that want state-licensed physicians to be able to recommend medical marijuana to patients with serious and debilitating illnesses. It places a small, 4 percent tax on the retail sale of medical marijuana, which would go to veterans and veterans’ health care in the state of Missouri.”

Cardetti’s major points in favor of Amendment 2 were as follows:

  1. “[Amendment 2] would be regulated by an existing state agency, the Missouri Department of Health.”
  2. “Thirty other states are allowing doctors to work with patients to recommend medical marijuana for cancer, epilepsy, PTSD and other debilitating illnesses. For many patients, this won’t be an appropriate treatment option, but for some it will, and it will be a much safer option.”
  3. “The longer a state is a medical marijuana state, the more dramatically those [opioid] deaths fall. So the one thing I don’t believe we can do here, from a public health standpoint, is nothing.”
  4. “All Amendment 2 does is allow a doctor to recommend medical marijuana to patients with debilitating illnesses. It doesn’t speak to recreational marijuana at all.”

Pro: Brad Bradshaw, Find the Cures spokesperson, wants Missourians to vote 'yes' on Amendment 3

“Medical marijuana will reduce suffering, and its tax revenue will lead to early detection and cures. It is the perfect marriage of ideas. With Amendment 3, failure is no longer an option, and Missouri will lead the way.”

Bradshaw’s major points in favor of Amendment 3 were as follows:

  1. “Oversight [for Amendment 3] would [be] through a board of some of the best scientists in the world … it also allows for oversight by the government. The state legislature and the governor together can take anyone off the board for any reason.”
  2. “Amendment 3 will bring millions of dollars to the medical schools here locally.”
  3. “The money will go to the people of Missouri instead of the wealthy corporations. Amendment 2 and Proposition C are set up to be monopolies, and these monopolies would drive up the cost [of marijuana].”
  4. “[Medical marijuana] is the greatest thing that could happen to the state of Missouri. It will create 10,000-plus new jobs, it will create a world-class cancer research center … obviously a research facility of this nature would require buildings, which also creates jobs.”

Pro: Mike Colona, attorney and former state representative, wants Missourians to vote 'yes' on Proposition C

“Proposition C represents a survey of best practices of states that currently have medical marijuana – put into a single bill. Now in my opinion, the biggest selling point of Proposition C is that it is a statutory amendment, not a constitutional amendment.”

Colona’s major points in favor of Amendment 3 were as follows:

  1. “One of the things our proposition does is a ‘seed to sale’ tracking system. So you can literally put a barcode on a seed of marijuana and have it tracked from seed to sale.”
  2. “This is a drug that can be used by doctors to combat opioid addiction and is something that can be successfully regulated by the state.”
  3. “[Prop C] is the one that’s had the most research, outreach to different stakeholders. Stakeholders include patients, doctors, law enforcements, locally elected officials … a survey of what’s worked in other states, all put together in a bill where we’ve had at least six years in research and talking to folks.”
  4. Proposition C does not allow home-grown marijuana and offers the lowest tax rate.

Con: Brandon Costerison, MO-HOPE project manager at NCADA, wants Missourians to vote 'no' on the marijuana initiatives

“Our goal is to reduce the harms associated with alcohol and drug abuse. I think [most people] would probably agree that the ideal solution to the question [of] medical marijuana would be for the [Drug Enforcement Administration] or Congress to reschedule it and allow for copious, in-depth research, double-blind studies. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon.”

Costerison’s major points in opposition to the three measures were as follows:

  1. “Very few things that get passed … get it right the first time, and there’s always unforeseen circumstances. So we know that a legislative or statutory change to create a system would be the most effective so that we can address unforeseen consequences that come down the road; maybe it’s an expansion of conditions that are eligible or ways to regulate dosing.”
  2. “If you look at the states that have the 10 highest opioid overdose rates, nine of them have medical marijuana programs … but that’s not a reason not to allow for some form of medicalized marijuana. Instead, we need to focus on, ‘Is the structure of the program something that checks the box that we need for an effective program – that puts patients first and isn’t motivated toward higher profits or individualized power?’”
  3. “When we’re looking at regulating medicine, I’m not sure that alcohol and tobacco are the models we want to take a look at … alcohol and tobacco aren’t used medicinally in this country.”
  4. “We believe that we don’t pay taxes on medicine. In Missouri, we don’t pay taxes on prescription drugs. And we think if people are truly suffering from chronic, debilitating conditions, anywhere from 10 to 15 percent tax on top of it is unacceptable.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie HemphillLara Hamdan and Xandra Ellin give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.

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