– Sue Curry Jones
If you have recently traveled from Ozark to Branson, Mo. on U.S. Route 65, you may have noticed a sign on the west side of the highway that says CDB Dispensary. The sign is hard to miss because it is on a building that sits on the top of a hill. I haven’t visited the site, so it is hard to say if the business is open for customers, but the sign is definitely promoting cannabinoid oil or CDB.
CBD oil is extracted from hemp, and the oil is recognized as a viable treatment for intractable epilepsy. Hemp is part of the cannabis family, but according to hemp producers, there is a big difference between hemp and marijuana. One of the main differences is that hemp registers low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the component that produces psychoactive or euphoric highs in marijuana. The THC level in hemp is less than .3%, whereas marijuana has a THC level that ranges from 5% to 35%.
In contrast, hemp also has multiple applications such as use in body care products, supplements, clothing, medicinal purposes, and more. Marijuana, however, is somewhat limited to use for medical purposes or recreational enjoyment.
The CBD Dispensary business that recently appeared on U.S. Route 65 south of Ozark is now coming to fruition because in May 2018, the Missouri General Assembly approved legislation that allows individuals to have access to CBD oil if it has a minimal THC content; and, if it is specifically earmarked for use in the treatment of epilepsy. The law allows for possession of no more than 20 ounces of CBD oil as long as authorization has been obtained from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and the agency requires a physician’s waiver. The law also stipulates the oil must be purchased from a state licensed business, and applicants must be 18-years-old or a legal guardian of a minor.
But for some, the hemp oil law is deemed unclear. The current rules which have been created to protect the public or provide rights to individuals in need, are being interpreted skewed to accommodate other purposes, consequently, the hemp oil standards are already being challenged. And, several authorities have commented that the law is esoteric and hard to enforce.
Initially in 2014, former President Barack Obama signed a bill that allowed states to authorize industrial hemp cultivation. Soon thereafter, former Governor Matt Blunt signed House Bill 2238 allowing the Department of Agriculture to grow hemp as long as it was a low THC variety. In turn, the Missouri House and Senate have also passed a proposition allowing Missouri residents to grow, cultivate, harvest, and process industrial hemp once the individual has met requirements and obtained a permit from the department of agriculture.
Today hemp oil retail businesses may be found in Kansas City, Columbia, Joplin, St. Louis, Branson and Springfield.
In Kansas City, the legality of CBD oil is already being challenged and under scrutiny, as the law surrounding the buying, selling and cultivating of the hemp oil are considered debatable and questionable. And, of course, there are always those who push the envelope and interpret the rules with a viewpoint that embraces the idea that the rules don’t apply to them.
It is also unclear as to whether or not those individuals who are buying CBD oil for other health conditions will be prosecuted, as their actions are breaking the law.
In 2014, when the law first allowed purchase of hemp oil for those needing help with intractable epilepsy, only 135 cards were activated by the end of the year. Since 2014, 331 cards have been issued, but as of June 30, 2018, only 148 cards are listed as active, with 23 cards issued to adults and 125 cards issued for 99 minor children.
If only 148 cards are active, who then is buying hemp oil at all of these dispensaries established in Missouri?
In November, voters will face three different options on the ballot for legalizing marijuana in Missouri for medical purposes. Two are constitutional amendments, and one is a proposition to change state law, but all three are written to legalize the growing, manufacturing, selling and use of marijuana and marijuana products for medicinal use.
Amendment Two proposes a marijuana sales tax of four percent, with the proceeds to fund veteran health care programs. This amendment allows the home-growing of marijuana.
Amendment Three would tax the sale of marijuana from growers to dispensaries at $9.25 per ounce for flowers, and $2.75 per ounce for leaves. Sales from dispensaries to patients would be taxed at 15 percent. Tax revenue would be used to establish research efforts which would focus on curing diseases.
Proposition C supports a sales tax on marijuana of two percent, with proceeds divided to fund and support veterans health care, public safety, drug treatment programs and early childhood development programs.
As with the hemp law, all three ballot initiatives require patients and legal guardians or primary care givers to apply with the state of Missouri for a card authorizing their medical need and for medical marijuana to be prescribed. Farmers and individuals looking to grow, cultivate and manufacture for selling would be required to apply for a different license.
According to law, if all three proposals are adopted through voter approval, the law says “the largest affirmative vote shall prevail,” but Missouri Constitution amendments override state statute –– so if all three pass, it appears the constitutional amendment receiving the most affirmative votes will be deemed the winning option.
In 2016, Arkansas legalized marijuana, but the program has not been firmly implemented and 2019 has been the date for the actual start of the medical marijuana program to begin. Putting these programs into the process takes time.
Several contradictions remain, however, if Missouri should pass a marijuana law in November, the plant is still considered illegal at the federal level of law enforcement.
Also, for large corporations who have random drug testing policies, what will happen when an employee tests positive?
Many law enforcement agencies and attorneys have concerns about what the proposed bills will mean for the state of Missouri if one passes. According to records, marijuana has not ever been associated with a fatal overdose, and the plant is not as addictive as narcotic painkillers presently used today.
In Colorado, Amendment 64 was approved by voters in 2012, and with implementation of the legalized marijuana recreational use program in 2014, the Denver Post reports the number of vehicular accidents have increased and the state’s crime rate has been on the rise since recreational use was allowed.
But, Colorado has also benefited, as in 2016-17 the state took in $105 million in tax revenue.
It appears the CDB hemp oil program now in place for medical distribution and use is not effective or as efficient as it should be. And, there are still many questions that need to be answered about the program.
It will be interesting to see how voters assess the marijuana issue in November, and whether or not cannabis is included on the list of options for patient treatment.