- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 8

Medical marijuana is legal in Missouri. So don’t punish its legal users.

The Missouri Department of Social Services is grappling with the decision of whether to allow medical marijuana users to receive welfare benefits. Voters’ decision on Nov. 6 to legalize medical marijuana use across Missouri placed this question squarely in a legal gray area, but this question has an easy answer: People who are exercising their legal right to use clinically prescribed medicine should not be punished for it with restricted welfare benefits. The new law took effect Thursday.

The department would be within its legal right under federal law to prevent marijuana users from accessing welfare benefits. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana - medical or recreational - remains a Schedule I illegal drug, regarded as equal in danger to heroin even though it clearly isn’t. But another piece of federal legislation, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, prohibits the government from using the restriction of federal funds to inhibit state marijuana laws.

Even though the federal government can’t enforce the medical marijuana prohibition in Missouri, the state still could exercise its discretion to bar users of medical marijuana from receiving welfare. Missouri now joins 33 other states that openly defy the federal government regarding public access to medical marijuana.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld a principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine, which dictates that the federal government cannot “command” state officials to enforce federal laws. It’s because of this doctrine that the federal government can only request, but not demand, that local law enforcers assist with detaining criminal undocumented immigrants targeted for removal.

If the federal government wants to enforce medical marijuana laws in the states, it must use its own resources.

As the Post-Dispatch’s Kurt Erickson reported, the Missouri Department of Social Services finds itself in legal limbo when it comes to restricting welfare recipients’ access to medically prescribed marijuana.

Welfare is designed as a social safety net to protect the most vulnerable in society, who include not only families in financial straits but also people who cannot work because of medical conditions or disabilities. The state government has no business deciding which medicine welfare recipients should be allowed access to, and which should not. The government especially should not be making such determinations based on purely punitive and subjective motives.

Medical marijuana is widely accepted by doctors as having therapeutic value; 64.2 percent of medical marijuana prescriptions go to patients with chronic and severe pain. It also has been useful in easing the effects of Parkinson’s, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, glaucoma and cancer. These aren’t partiers trying to sneak a legal high. They’re patients struggling with physically and financially debilitating illnesses.

While the letter of the law doesn’t compel the state to provide welfare to medical marijuana users, Gov. Mike Parson should yield to his own sense of compassion and not punish people who already are suffering enough.


The St. Joseph News-Press, Dec. 7

Respect voters’ will on highway tax

Every month, the typical Missourian spends more money to maintain a personal cellphone than to maintain roads and bridges in the state.

That’s something that needs to be fixed, given the deteriorating status of our infrastructure. Missouri has the nation’s seventh-largest state highway system and the second-lowest gasoline tax.

It’s a recipe for roads, bridges and other infrastructure becoming woefully underfunded, with dire consequences for economic development and public safety.

The failure of Proposition D, a measure that would have generated more than $400 million, leaves Missouri lawmakers with few good options on highway funding. The proposition gained only 46 percent of the statewide vote. In Buchanan County, it won 51 percent support.

Some lawmakers are talking about incremental 2-cent gas tax hikes to circumvent Missouri’s Hancock Amendment that requires a statewide vote on tax increases of significant size. Others have talked about toll roads, increases to vehicle license and registration fees and fees on all-electric vehicles that don’t use gasoline.

All of these proposals share a certain spirit that enlightened lawmakers need to save the red-state hillbillies before we are swallowed by potholes. While we supported Proposition D, and we know this problem isn’t going away, we believe lawmakers should move with extreme caution on any tax increase that appears to go against the will of the people.

Before attempting an end-run on taxes, Missouri lawmakers should consider the deeply flawed nature of Proposition D.

Rushed through at the end of last year’s legislative session, the ballot language contained strange wording on tax exemptions for prizes won by Special Olympians. Officials with that organization said Special Olympic awards already are not taxed.

Then there was the decision to send Proposition D revenue to the State Road Fund, which also funds the Missouri State Highway Patrol, rather than to roads and bridges exclusively. Proponents of the tax said voters were confused by this provision and new funding for the patrol would have freed up existing funds, presumably for highways.

Can you blame voters for expressing skepticism when the message is, essentially, trust us on this one?

Gov. Mike Parson deserves credit for a practical decision to support Proposition D as the best available option, but you can only polish a turd so much.

Despite its flaws, Proposition D was closer to passing than a transportation sales tax in 2014.

With this in mind, before raising taxes, lawmakers should consider giving Missouri voters another chance at the polls. Let’s try a project-specific measure that goes exclusively to roads and bridges.


The Joplin Globe, Dec. 7

Our View: Overdue Priority

A drug-monitoring program long overdue in Missouri - the only state without one - looks to be within grasp.

And it has found a champion in Gov. Mike Parson.

Parson, last week made it clear that a prescription drug monitoring program is high on his list and he is counting on having that bill on his desk to sign at the end of next year’s legislative session.

This should come as welcome news to a state that has an opiod crisis it can’t seem to shake. In 2016, there were 914 opioid-related overdose deaths in Missouri - a rate of 15.9 deaths per 100,000 persons - compared to the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 persons. From 2012 to 2016 heroin overdose deaths increased from 210 to 380 deaths. Synthetic opioid overdose deaths have been increasing dramatically since 2013, from 97 to 441 deaths.

Most Missouri counties and cities, weary of not seeing any legislative action, formed under the umbrella of a St. Louis PDMP.

A bill to form the statewide monitoring program has been filed, and the legislator who for years was responsible for stopping passage of the bill has term-limited out of the Senate.

Our state can’t afford to fail another year. The news that Parson wants this to be a priority is encouraging and we applaud him for getting out ahead of it.


The Kansas City Star, Dec. 5

Missouri voters rejected right to work - loudly. The General Assembly should listen

Missouri lawmakers have started filing bills for the 2019 session. The list includes the usual grab-bag of technical changes, special-interest legislation, and pet causes of legislators in the state House and Senate.

Some have merit, and will likely reach the finish line in one form or another. There’s a sports wagering bill. Sen. Lauren Arthur wants no-excuse absentee voting in Missouri, a change long overdue. One pre-filed bill would expand Medicaid in the state.

Other pre-filed bills, on the other hand, should die quickly. Incoming Republican Sen. Eric Burlison has introduced a new right-to-work bill, one that would prohibit making membership in a labor organization a condition of employment.

Yes. Yes it did.

Republican lawmakers rammed through a right-to-work bill last year, then watched as a coalition of groups gathered enough referendum signatures to force a statewide vote on the issue. To virtually no one’s surprise, those voters overwhelmingly rejected the right-to-work Proposition A, by a better than two-to-one margin, in August.

Burlison apparently feels he knows better than nearly 940,000 Missouri voters. “Democracy is not freedom,” he told The Star in a text message.

Well, yes. Some rights - civil rights are a good example - are inalienable. But the right to a job with union benefits, without paying a fair share of the cost of negotiating those benefits, isn’t one of them.

And Burlison’s hubris in overturning the clear will of the voters is concerning. If the voters’ decision can be easily tossed aside, why have a petition process at all?

Sadly, the senator-elect’s anti-voter attitude is becoming more common in his Republican party. Lawmakers in Wisconsin and Michigan are now gleefully grabbing power from incoming gubernatorial Democrats, as if the voters’ voices are immaterial. They should cut it out.

Democracy isn’t freedom, perhaps, but freedom is impossible without democracy. The voters have spoken on right-to-work in Missouri, and their votes should be respected.

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