JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association has formed a political action committee its spokesman says will support lawmakers who agree with its pro-medical marijuana agenda.
The MoCannTrade PAC, established June 5, had just $3,000 in the bank as of July 1, and hasn't yet donated to any politician, said Jack Cardetti, the association's spokesman. The trade association is so far the only donor to the PAC, and Cardetti said money could start to move in the coming months.
PACs by pro-pot interests are not new in Missouri, though their purpose has changed since voters legalized medical marijuana here last year — rather than lobbying for its legalization, the PACs can now advocate for an industry already in existence, one that could generate $100 million in sales by 2025.
"Like most other major trade organizations in Missouri, MoCannTrade has established a PAC as a transparent and ethical way to support candidates for office that want to see an effective medical marijuana program for Missouri patients," Cardetti said in a statement.
He said donations would not be limited to any one political party in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Last November, nearly two-thirds of Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. The Department of Health and Senior Services is in the process of licensing dispensaries, cultivation centers, manufacturing facilities and testing labs. Sales are expected to start early next year.
Even though lawmakers cannot easily undermine the constitutional amendment, Cardetti said legislators can still regulate medical marijuana.
"As long as they're working within the confines of the Constitution they can certainly put their imprint on public policy," he said.
Cardetti said a measure last legislative session by state Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, would have restricted the sale of marijuana in edible form.
Another measure would have asked voters to repeal the medical marijuana program they had just approved.
"Despite the popularity of this issue, there's always legislative threats," Cardetti said.
Dan Viets, chairman of the Missouri Medical Cannabis Industry Association, said that group will "likely" launch a PAC of its own in the coming months.
Viets said his industry association has a "patient and small business orientation" but has "the same goals" as Cardetti's group, which represents some of the largest players in the state.
"We're on good terms," he said, adding that he would like the Legislature to approve a measure protecting people who use medical marijuana from losing their jobs if they fail a drug test.
MoCannTrade PAC is not the first pot group to try to influence Missouri politics.
One group, the Relax PAC, donated thousands of dollars last year to the effort to get medical marijuana legalized, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis of Missouri Ethics Commission records. Bradford Goette, a former DirtCheap and MillerCoors executive, is the treasurer of Relax PAC.
He is also on the board of the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, which controls MoCannTrade PAC, and is one of the top applicants for medical marijuana business licenses.
Authorities have tied one pro-marijuana PAC in Missouri to the illegal drug trade.
Eapen Thampy, former executive director of the Better Way Missouri PAC, was indicted in May on a felony marijuana distribution conspiracy charge and a felony marijuana possession charge.
Federal charges say one of Thampy's alleged co-conspirators laundered $1,000 in drug money on Sept. 26, 2016 by donating it to the PAC.