Missouri joined the majority of states Tuesday in becoming the 31st to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Voters approved Amendment 2, one of three similar measures on the ballot, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
Although the provision takes effect Jan. 1, it will likely be late next year at the earliest before people with cancer, HIV and other serious conditions will be able to obtain medical marijuana.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will oversee the regulation and operations of the state’s medical marijuana program.
The department must begin accepting requests from qualifying patients no later than June and applications from potential dispensaries no later than August. The department then has another 150 days to approve or disapprove the licensing of a new dispensary.
Potential growers and manufacturers must apply to the state health department for licensing.
A state-licensed physician must certify that the patient has a qualifying ailment or condition. To qualify, patients must have one of the nine medical conditions outlined in the amendment or have a condition deemed terminal, chronic or debilitating by a physician.
The qualifying conditions include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, intractable migraines, debilitating psychiatric disorders or a condition causing severe, persistent muscle spasms.
Marijuana can also be used as a safer alternative to addictive medication and it can be prescribed for those with a terminal illness or a chronic, debilitating condition, such as Crohn’s disease, autism, Hepatitis C and Alzheimer’s disease.
The medication can be dried marijuana or a marijuana-infused product, such as edibles, ointments and tinctures. The price will vary substantially depending on which product the patient is buying.
Prices will reflect the content of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetryhydrocannabinol (THC), both active compounds found in marijuana, said Dan Viets, president of Amendment 2’s campaign committee and president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Foundation, or the NORML Foundation.
“I think there should be competition,” Viets said. “We want prices to be low and fair.”
He also wants doctors and patients to understand how to recommend marijuana to a patient.
“We want to help assist doctors in writing patient certifications,” Viets said. “They simply need to say the patient is diagnosed with one of the approved conditions.”
Once patients are approved for marijuana use, they will be able to shop at any dispensary. Patients will be allowed to purchase 4 ounces of dried marijuana or the equivalent within a 30-day period, unless recommended by two independent physicians. Caretakers and patients may also grow up to six flowering plants at home.
The state health department in conjunction with local governments will be responsible for regulating the locations and hours of operation for local dispensaries. These are licensed locations that sell only medical marijuana products to patients.
Under the amendment, local governments are not allowed to impose any bans, but they can enforce reasonable restrictions on local facilities.
The 4 percent tax on the retail sale of marijuana will go toward health care services, job training, housing assistance for veterans through the Missouri Veterans Commission.
On Saturday, NORML will hold the 2018 Missouri Cannabis Conference in the Allen Auditorium, Arts & Science Building, at MU. Leaders in the marijuana law reform movement will speak about the future of medical marijuana in Missouri and the success of the Amendment 2 campaign.