There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy skepticism regarding medical marijuana in Missouri.
Is the promised economic boost oversold, much like those of riverboat casinos 25 years ago? Is there enough research to really understand health benefits and potential side effects? That’s not even getting into the way that licenses were awarded.
But voters in 2018 gave convincing approval to the legalization of medical cannabis. The constitutional amendment passed with 65% voter approval, better than “Clean Missouri” ethics reform and better than Medicaid expansion. Attitudes have evolved on marijuana, so much so that elected lawmakers and government bureaucrats seemed caught off guard.
It took only 19 months from the passage of Clean Missouri for state lawmakers to pass a proposed amendment to the amendment, which appears on this November’s ballot. Medical marijuana? There’s still no dispensary open for business, 22 months after voters approved the constitutional amendment.
Those who see medical marijuana for what it’s meant to be — a form of relief from immense physical pain — could be forgiven for asking, “What’s taking so long?” Before you say COVID-19, which is a reason, remember that voters approved language that required the state to begin accepting applications from medical marijuana patients in June — of 2019.
Also note that the state isn’t willing to keep moving the goal line on when our taxes are due, despite the economic consequences of the coronavirus. Most of us only got a three-month reprieve.
On medical marijuana, some chalked up the the delay to resistance from Missouri elected officials. Clearly, some are uncomfortable about liberalization and a rightly cautious of using medical cannabis as a Trojan horse for recreational legalization.
More likely, medical marijuana is stuck in the bureaucratic tall weeds, an example of government agencies managing to over-promise and under-deliver. Dispensaries were supposed to open this summer at the latest, but now state officials are promising September. It would come as little surprise to see the date pushed back to later this fall.
Granted, even without a pandemic, Missouri faced the daunting regulatory task of opening its doors to a new industry that was relegated to the black market for decades. But Missouri is not exactly at the tip of the spear. There must have been playbooks in other states to examine.
Those who see false promises in medical marijuana might not be terribly confident about this product bringing Missouri much more than more marijuana. But they might have even less confidence in our government’s ability to usher in and regulate this emerging industry,
The voters asked for it. At some point, you have to deliver.