- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Medical marijuana advocates are pushing to get the issue on the November ballot in Missouri, with two competing proposals being pursued.

Republican Rep. Dave Hinson, of St. Clair, has introduced a bill that would regulate cultivation and dispensation, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/248deM4 ). He unsuccessfully introduced similar legislation last year. But this year, the medical marijuana issue would have to go to the vote of the people instead of being legalized through legislative action.

Some doctors are backing the plan, but the Missouri Association for Prosecutors and the Missouri Sheriffs Association have raised concerns about enforcement.

Meanwhile, a campaign committee called New Approach Missouri has started to collect the 160,000 signatures needed to allow voters to consider a less restrictive medical marijuana proposal.

If Hinson’s measure is approved by the Legislature and then voters, doctors could prescribe medical marijuana to patients with certain conditions, such as cancer and AIDS. The list of conditions is limited, but it could be expanded later, Hinson said.

Hinson said the tight regulation of cannabis cultivation in his bill would discourage a “black market,” unlike the ballot initiative, which would allow for medical marijuana to be homegrown. The bill would allow the state to issue no more than 30 state licenses for medical cannabis centers and another 30 state licenses for cultivation and production facilities, with some exceptions. Those seeking a state license for a medical cannabis center would be required to prove they have about $500,000 in assets.

According to New Approach Missouri’s ballot language, there wouldn’t be a limited patient list, but rather doctors would have the discretion as to what diseases can be treated with marijuana. Fees wouldn’t be as steep and the applicant wouldn’t need $500,000 in liquid assets.

Jack Cardetti, a political consultant for New Approach Missouri, said the initiative petition is more likely to be successful.

“The Legislature isn’t ready to approve of medical marijuana yet,” Cardetti said, adding that a bill passed by the General Assembly would be so restrictive that no one in the marijuana industry would want to be involved.

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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