ST. LOUIS — Missouri has joined the long list of states allowing medical marijuana, but it'll likely be late next year at the earliest before people with cancer, HIV and other serious ailments will be able to obtain it.
Missouri became the 31st state to approve medical marijuana when voters on Tuesday approved Amendment 2 .
Voters likely expedited the implementation process by rejecting two competing medical marijuana initiatives that also were on the ballot, Amendment 3 and Proposition C. Passage of more than one would have almost certainly set off a lengthy court battle.
The new amendment to the state constitution calls for a 4 percent sales tax on medical marijuana sales, with the money going to a new fund for health and care services for veterans. It also seeks to help veterans by allowing marijuana treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jack Cardetti, spokesman for New Approach Missouri, the coalition that backed Amendment 2, said the measure was based on the best medical marijuana laws and amendments in other states.
"One of the virtues of being the 31st state is you don't have to reinvent the wheel," Cardetti said. "We were able to cherry-pick the best ideas and I think the common-sense approach was rewarded at the polls."
Missouri legislative researchers have estimated that more than $100 million worth of medical marijuana could be sold annually. But it won't happen quickly.
Amendment 2 requires the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to begin accepting applications from patients no later than early June. The department must begin accepting applications for dispensaries by early August, and accept or reject dispensary applications within 150 days of receiving them.
Potential growers and manufacturers also must request a license.
"We expect to see medical marijuana become available either late in 2019 or early in 2020," said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for ending marijuana prohibitions.
Diane Czarkowski, co-founder of the cannabis consulting firm Canna Advisors, said cultivation facilities should be approved first because it will take at least six months to grow and cultivate the marijuana. Obtaining marijuana from another state isn't an option because federal law prohibits transporting marijuana across state lines.
The state health department will set limits on how much a patient can buy each month, and how much she or he can possess. The amendment will require the state to allow a person to buy at least four ounces per month, and possess at least a 60-day supply.
Qualifying medical conditions in addition to PTSD include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, migraine headaches that don't respond to other treatment, chronic and painful conditions like Parkinson's disease, ALS and Crohn's disease, debilitating psychiatric disorders, HIV, and any terminal illness.
The amendment requires at least 24 licensed dispensaries in each of Missouri's eight congressional districts.
Patients or their caregivers also can grow their own marijuana in an enclosed and locked site.
Edible marijuana-infused products must be sold in child-resistant containers and include instructions with dosage amounts.
People in jail or prison will not be allowed to use medical marijuana.