Missourians in 2018 voted emphatically to legalize marijuana for medical use.
The election results may have surprised or disappointed those who oppose the liberalization of marijuana laws, but they have to live with it. Since the vote, Missouri’s slow and sometimes maddening rollout of medical cannabis may have proved equally surprising and disappointing to others.
Medical marijuana supporters, however, do appear to have a harder time adjusting to reality.
The process for awarding licenses was flawed, to be sure, but that’s not the same thing as saying Missouri should flood the market with a dispensary on every corner. Indeed, during the 2018 campaign, one of the spokesmen on the pro-cannabis side said, “Missourians don’t want a dispensary on every corner.”
In fact, if you read the campaign literature from that era, you will find plenty of talk of regulation and tax revenue for the state and its veterans. There was less mention of the free market.
Missourians were not promised the free market in 2018. They were promised a highly regulated and taxed product that operates under the watchful eye of state authorities, much like casino gambling. The state only allows 13 riverboat casinos in Missouri, as much as Las Vegas would like to flood the Show-Me State with more gambling.
The reason the state limits the number of dispensaries is to prevent an oversupply of medical marijuana that could be diverted to the black market.
Now those in the marijuana industry are crying foul over new rules that limit some types of advertising. They are not allowed to promote price discounts or offer buy-one-get-one promotions.
Maybe this is unfair, but remember that advertising regulation is not unprecedented. The Food and Drug Administration, and in some cases the Federal Trade Commission, have the authority to regulate pharmaceutical products to prevent misleading claims.
Anything less than that would be hucksterism, which is not what Congress envisioned when it approved the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. It’s not what Missouri voters expected when they opened the door to medical marijuana.
Marijuana advocates, when they push for recreational legalization at the polls, should be honest with Missouri voters about whether they want regulation or the Wild West. We think Missouri voters would prefer the former.