As a physician and legislator, I have long had concerns about marijuana legalization. However, in 2018 Missouri voters passed Amendment 2 with 66 percent of the vote, rejecting two competing initiatives.
This particular proposal was billed by its proponents as a way for Missouri patients to access medical marijuana in a safe, regulated way. While I was not supportive of this state constitutional amendment, I believe that if medical marijuana is to be legal, regulation is appropriate not just for safety but to also minimize diversion into the black market and to protect minors.
Some now propose that the state award an unlimited number of licenses to grow, manufacture, and dispense medical marijuana. Under such a system, it’s more likely that we will see marijuana dispensaries on every street corner and an oversupply of product that could end up supporting an unregulated black market.
The constitutional amendment requires the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to award 338 medical marijuana business licenses. The merit-based process ensures that only applicants with stringent security measures in place and the greatest local economic impact receive these licenses.
Notably, Missouri’s constitutional provision allows the state Department of Health and Senior Services to increase the number of licenses if demand dictates.
Compared to other states, those 338 licenses are the second-highest found in any medical-marijuana-only state after Oklahoma. That state’s disastrous, nearly nonexistent regulations have been beset with recalls from untested medical cannabis containing pesticides and other toxins.
During the 2020 COVID-shortened legislative session, the Missouri House – without a single legislative hearing on the proposal – was persuaded to adopt an amendment opening the marijuana industry to an unlimited number of licenses. Fortunately, this problematic amendment didn’t become law.