Missouri Medical Marijuana Backers File Petition to Allow Vote in 2016

Missouri Medical Marijuana Backers File Petition to Allow Vote in 2016
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Brett Levin

To their health.

Medical marijuana boosters last Thursday launched a campaign to let pot-friendly doctors recommend a little natural relief for patients suffering from serious ailments, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.

A registered nurse and decorated Vietnam War veteran filed petitions with the state to put the issue in front of Missouri voters in 2016. The move could open the door for controlled growing operations and dispensaries across the state, giving patients access to care already available in 23 other states nationwide.

"There's clearly broad-based support for physicians, working with their patients, to prescribe medical marijuana," said Jack Cardetti, spokesman for New Approach Missouri, a nonprofit backing the petitions.

Under the plan, patients with a doctor's consent could apply for identification cards issued by the Missouri Department of Health and buy legal weed from state-licensed sellers. The number of dispensaries and cultivation sites would be determined by population along with other factors, such community support, according to a draft of the bill. St. Louis could potentially land as many as 11 of the state-licensed dispensaries if the measure goes through.

The effort backed by New Approach Missouri has been in the works for months.

Prominent pot activists with New Approach and Show-Me Cannabis told the Riverfront Times in July they were considering a push for medical marijuana legislation, even as they chased the less politically palatable goal of full, Oregon-style legalization of weed.

Cardetti said on Thursday that summer polling showed strong support for a medical marijuana bill, although he declined to give numbers.

"It starts off as a pretty popular measure," he said.

The petition must first pass through the Secretary of State, who would give approval for activists to begin gathering the 160,000 valid signatures needed to put the effort on the 2016 ballot.

See also: "Mastermind" of Oregon Marijuana Legalization Turns Attention to Missouri

Sheila Dundon, a breast cancer survivor and nurse, filed a petition, as did Tom Mundell, the former leader of the state Veterans of Foreign Wars, on behalf of New Approach.

“Hundreds of thousands of Missourians suffer from cancer, epilepsy and other debilitating diseases that could be treated with medical marijuana,” Dundon said in a statement. “Now is the time for Missouri to join the 23 other states that give this important medical option to physicians and their patients.”

The proposal would also help pay for veterans’ health care in Missouri through a sales tax on marijuana and licensing fees for growers and sellers.

“This measure is an absolute win-win for Missouri veterans,” Mundell said in a statement. “Not only will it provide veterans suffering illnesses much-needed relief, but it will provide invaluable resources for our underfunded veterans health care programs throughout Missouri.”

Supporters expect to start collecting signatures this winter ahead of a May deadline and have already started fundraising online at newapproachmissouri.com. Once they've turned in enough names, New Approach will begin a more traditional political campaign with rallies and an ad launch to persuade voters, Cardetti said. Expect to see more of them soon.

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