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Missouri votes to legalize medical marijuana

Three ballot initiatives aimed to legalize medical marijuana. Only one won.

A bag of medical marijuana. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Voters in Missouri on Tuesday approved a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana.

In a bizarre situation, Missouri had three ballot initiatives regarding medical marijuana. But voters approved only one of the measures: Amendment 2.

All of the measures would legalize possessing, using, buying, and selling pot for medicinal purposes, and allow the state to license and regulate dispensaries through a new system.

But there were some differences on taxes:

  • Amendment 2 would impose a 4 percent tax on marijuana sales, and the funds would be used mainly to pay for services for military veterans.
  • Amendment 3 would impose a 15 percent tax on marijuana sales as well as additional taxes in other areas of production and sales, with the revenue primarily dedicated to a research institute that would try to find cures and treatments for cancers and other medical conditions.
  • Proposition C would impose a 2 percent tax on marijuana sales, and the revenue would be set for veterans’ services, drug treatment, early childhood education, and public safety.

There were also some differences with qualifying conditions. If a patient didn’t have a qualifying condition under the law, Amendment 2 and Proposition C still let the patient get permission to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval. Amendment 3, meanwhile, was more limiting — only letting patients petition a board to get a condition added to the state’s list.

And Amendment 2 allows home growing, while the other two measures did not.

Voters approved only Amendment 2.

The face-off between three medical marijuana initiatives is bizarre, created by disagreements over what Missouri’s medical marijuana program should look like.

Prior to Election Day, nine states had legalized marijuana for recreational and medical purposes, while 21 others had legalized only for medical uses.

Generally, not many people deny that at least some of the components of marijuana can help with some medical conditions. The debate around medical marijuana is mostly about the details of how states implement it — particularly about whether a state system is too lax (creating de facto legalization), and whether it would be better to take the specific components of marijuana through the federal approval process for other medicines instead of legalizing the whole plant for medicinal use through a voter initiative.

With a lack of state and federal action, though, Missouri advocates pushed for a ballot initiative — and on Tuesday, they won.

For more on marijuana legalization, read Vox’s explainer.

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