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Marijuana plants seized by police

How times change. Not that long ago, the idea of a medical marijuana referendum on a Missouri ballot would have been unthinkable. But the Nov. 6 ballot will have three of them.

Medical marijuana is a legitimate pain-relief option for some conditions, and taxing it can raise useful public funds. The devil is in the details. These three ballot measures are each different, are in direct competition with one another, and will test the limits of voters’ patience with their complexity.

Having dissected the three measures — Constitutional Amendments 2 and 3, and Proposition C — we recommend Amendment 2.

Either amendment would change the Missouri Constitution to legalize medical marijuana, while the proposition would only change state law. Amendment 2 and Prop C would tax the product at 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively, to fund veterans’ health services. Prop C would also fund drug treatment, education and public safety. Amendment 3 is an especially bad idea that would tax medical marijuana at 15 percent to fund a cancer research institute controlled by the person pushing the ballot measure.

Voters can support one, two or all three measures. If more than one of them gets 50 percent support, the amendments supersede the proposition, with the highest vote-getting amendment superseding the other.

So why is Amendment 2 superior?

The first issue isn’t about marijuana, but our Legislature — which has a history of arrogantly reversing ballot propositions voters pass but that legislators don’t like. If voters legalize medical marijuana via Prop C, lawmakers could reverse it because it’s a mere statutory change. But both amendments would legalize it by changing the state constitution, tying legislators’ hands.

Between Amendment 2 and Amendment 3, we prefer the earmarked use of the money in Amendment 2, which will go for veteran health services, a tangible benefit to the state. Amendment 3 would use its proceeds to create and fund a cancer research institute — a goal no one would denigrate, but one that shouldn’t take precedence over Missourians’ more immediate needs.

More than that, it’s discomforting that the person who promoted and primarily funded the effort to get Amendment 3 on the ballot — Springfield trial lawyer and physician Brad Bradshaw — is the same person who would be in charge of that cancer institute. He would personally appoint the board that would regulate the medical marijuana. That would hand over to a non-elected private citizen enormous power over public policy and substantial tax revenue. The unusual sight of an individual’s name in the language of a ballot referendum should, in itself, give pause.

Of course, voters who don’t want to chance that none of the three measures passes could vote for all three. But for those more calculated about their support, we recommend Amendment 2.

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