For the first time in US history, three medical cannabis measures have made it onto a single state ballot. Next week, voters in Missouri could legalize medical cannabis. But first they’ll have to untangle each proposal’s promises.
And there’s more to this story than a complicated ballot choice. In unraveling it, most roads, albeit winding, seem to lead to two men with little past involvement with medical cannabis, but who seem to be spending big to ensure their place in the future of the industry in the state: Brad Bradshaw, a personal injury attorney, and Rex Sinquefield, a retired multimillionaire who’s been bankrolling Missouri elections for years. A third more straightforward measure, meanwhile, has more conventional endorsements and funding.
Here’s how it all breaks down:
Some of the leading cannabis advocacy groups in the state and country have thrown their weight behind Amendment 2, which is sponsored by New Approach Missouri, the original medical cannabis campaign in the state. In 2016, New Approach spearheaded an initiative that never made the ballot after 10,000 signatures were deemed invalid. New Approach sued the Secretary of State and the two sides bickered over the validity of the signatures, concluding in the end that New Approach fell twenty-three signatures short. This year, New Approach is trying again—with Amendment 2, which has some major endorsements, including the Saint Louis American and the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch and, as of last week, the Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The president of the New Approach board of directors is Dan Viets, also the state coordinator for the Missouri branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). New Approach has also received financial support from the National Cannabis Industry Association and the Drug Policy Alliance.
Then there is the somewhat opaque Proposition C, which formed in July of 2017 and is sponsored by Missourians For Patient Care. Mike Colona, a former Missouri Democratic Representative, serves as treasurer. The committee shares an address with Pelopidas, LLC, a lobbying firm owned by Travis Brown, a volunteer, donor, and spokesperson for Missourians For Patient Care. The committee is funded almost exclusively by a non-profit of the same name which, because of its classification as a 501(c)4, is not required to disclose its donors.
And finally, there’s Amendment 3, which is often referred to as the Bradshaw Amendment because it is sponsored by Find The Cures, a non-profit funded almost entirely by Missouri attorney Brad Bradshaw.
In interviews with Cannabis Wire, both Jack Cardetti, the campaign consultant for New Approach, and Travis Brown, spokesperson for Missourians for Patient Care, shared criticisms of Bradshaw’s Amendment 3. Specifically, Bradshaw intends to create a “Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute,” which would be funded by a 15% tax on medical cannabis products. Bradshaw would select the Institute’s board members and become its Chair, and that board would be in charge of program regulations, and, ultimately, the issuance of business licenses. In short, Bradshaw would run the show.
“Amendment 3 would create a medical marijuana ‘czar’, unlike anything that’s seen in any state, and unlike anything that currently exists in the Missouri State government,” said Cardetti, adding that the proposal allows Bradshaw to “literally write himself into the constitution.” Brad Bradshaw did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Brown and Cardetti share another major concern about Bradshaw’s Prop C: The amendment would establish a Land Acquisition Board, which would identify at least three possible locations for a research campus. On the ballot in the next general election, residents of the county in which the land will be purchased will vote for or against the acquisition. The location that receives the largest percentage of “yes” votes will be the location for the facility, and the board may use “any and all legal means necessary” to acquire and purchase the property.
“It’s not a good idea to give constitutional power that can’t be vetoed by a legislature, doesn’t require confirmation by a governor or consent of any senate, and there’s never an election for this power granted,” Brown said in an interview with Cannabis Wire. “That has a lot that encroaches on private property rights, private enterprise. In a way that I think is very damaging to our state constitution, regardless of what kind of chaos it might create for cannabis. It’s a very dangerous, very poorly drafted amendment.”
Cardetti and Brown expressed support for each other’s measures, emphasizing that Amendment 2 and Proposition C are more alike than they are different:
— Both would grant licensing and regulatory authority to existing government agencies, and both establish a Missouri Veterans Health And Care Fund that would be supported by a portion of tax revenue and overseen by the Missouri Veterans Commission.
— And both keep taxes comparatively low—2% and 4% for Proposition C and Amendment 2 respectively, versus Bradshaw’s 15%.
If there’s any doubt as to whether New Approach and Missourians For Patient Care are, at the very least, rooting for each other, their slogan says it all: “We’ve always said, ‘If you want THC for you and me, vote yes on 2 and yes on C,’” Brown told Cannabis Wire.
The Money Behind the Measures
When combined, the three campaigns have raised a whopping $5.4 million. And, so far, Brad Bradshaw’s committee has out-raised the other two. Here’s a breakdown of who is funding the efforts:
Find the Cures, the committee behind Amendment 3 and spearheaded by Brad Bradshaw, has raised $2,160,566 this election cycle. More than 80% of that money was loaned to the committee by Bradshaw himself at a 1% interest rate.
Missourians For Patient Care has raised $1,486,347 to pass Proposition C, 92% of which came from its non-profit by the same name ($1,373,255). But because the nonprofit isn’t required to disclose its donors, it’s difficult to tell exactly who is backing the initiative.
Still, Travis Brown is the CEO of Pelopidas LLC, the lobbying firm that shares an address with Missourians For Patient Care. Pelopidas is best-known as the go-to lobbying firm for multi-millionaire investor and philanthropist Rex Sinquefield. Pelopidas is “a large operation that encompasses lobbying, fundraising, multimedia, and consulting, nearly all of it tied to and funded by Sinquefield,” according to the St. Louis Dispatch. The retired investor has spent millions on lobbying and ballot initiatives supporting libertarian causes, like the privatization of schools and airports. Brown has introduced other ballot committees funded by Sinquefield, such as the Let Voters Decide Committee, which successfully campaigned in 2007 against municipal earnings taxes.
As to whether the Sinquefield family is involved with either measure, Brown responded, “I don’t believe so today. I mean, generally, the family is supportive of libertarian causes, and I don’t think there’s a better libertarian cause than this. It’s an individual right, individual therapy.”
The Sinquefield family has ties to New Approach, the original medical cannabis group. In 2016, Sinquefield’s son, Luke, gave $150,000 to New Approach for its effort to pass medical cannabis. Sinquefield, meanwhile, is also the president and founder of the Show-Me Institute, a non-profit think tank that is, according to its website, “dedicated to promoting free markets and individual liberty.” New Approach was formerly known as Show-Me Cannabis, and the executive director and treasurer of Show-Me Cannabis was John Payne who, before joining the board, was a research assistant at Sinquefield’s Show-Me Inc. Payne is now New Approach’s campaign manager.
The only other donors to Missourians For Patient Care are First Rule, the media arm of Pelopidas LLC, and Relax PAC, a committee formed by executives in the tobacco, oil, and liquor industries in February of this year. Relax PAC’s disclosures could shed some light on who is funding the Missourians For Patient Care’s non-profit arm. Since its creation, the PAC has raised $158,200, and all but $8,200 went to Missourians For Patient Care. The remainder went to Republican candidates for the State House and Senate.
Relax PAC was established by executives of Hub Inc., a tobacco wholesaler, and U-Gas Holdings, which changed its name to PECL Holdings in 2016. Relax PAC, Hub Inc., and PECL Holdings all share an address. Relax PAC’s Treasurer is Bradford Goette, who is also the President of Missourians For Patient Care and the former Senior Marketing Manager for beer manufacturer MillerCoors. The deputy treasurer of Relax PAC is Carrie Beckel. According to LLC filings with the Secretary of State, Goette is the treasurer of Hub Inc., and Beckel is its secretary. Cannabis Wire was able to reach Beckel, who directed the inquiry to Goette. Goette did not return requests for comment.
Still, Relax PAC’s contribution makes up only a fraction of the donations from Missourians For Patient Care, and the source of that remaining cash is not in the public record.
That leaves New Approach Missouri, which has raised $1,726,276 this election cycle for Amendment 2. Unlike Missourians For Patient Care and Find The Cures, there are numerous donors to New Approach, including activist organizations, major philanthropists, local dispensaries, and former alcohol executives. And the donor lists are public.
Top donors include:
— Adolphus Busch IV, former CEO of Anheuser-Busch, who’s contributed $130,000.
— Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has contributed $258,500.
— Arnold Mayersohn Jr., owner of Mayerhson Consulting LLC, who has given $183,245.
— MNG 2005 Inc., which does not have a website, but according to articles of incorporation filed with the state, the registered agent is David Palatnik, owner of CBD Kratom. The company has contributed $15,751 year-to-date.
— Seven Points LLC, a company without a website that according to their articles of organization was formed in February. Seven Points has contributed $125,000.
— Timberland Bay Properties LLC, a business registered in Seattle, Washington with a mailing address in Missouri. The company has contributed $18,000 year-to-date.
As reported by the Missouri Times, a poll of 1,052 residents shows majority support for all three measures. Amendment 2 is in the lead, with 69% of respondents planning to vote yes. Amendment 3 is close behind at 64%, followed by Proposition C with 62%. But the poll has a small sample size and a 3% margin of error, and with all three committees raking in thousands, days before the election, the outcome is far from certain.
More On Missouri: An Explainer
Behind the three measures:
There is no question as to who is behind Amendment 3, and who could stand to gain: Bradshaw’s unprecedented approach to a medical cannabis program grants him significant power, and he’s using his own money to achieve that end.
The converse is true of Missourians For Patient Care, whose Amendment C is funded almost entirely by dark money. Through Pelopidas, the committee is tied directly to Sinquefield, but if Proposition C passes, voters may never know exactly who made it possible, or why.
Aside from its potential ties to Sinquefield, New Approach’s effort—Amendment 2— is the most conventional of the three: It’s supported by everyone from small dispensary owners to potential investors and has the endorsement of the most notable cannabis organizations in the country.
What each measure promises:
Under Amendment 2:
— The Department of Health has the authority to grant licenses and regulate the program.
— Retail sales will be taxed at 4%.
— The fee to apply for a license to operate a dispensary or manufacturing facility is $3,000. The fee for a cultivation license is $10,000. Patients will pay an annual fee of $100.
— Information about cannabis companies seeking licenses, including sales information, financial records, tax returns, and business plans, will be kept confidential.
— The program would be in effect starting December 6th, one month after the election.
Under Proposition C:
— The Division of Alcohol and Tobacco would be in charge of issuing licenses and enforcing the rules and regulations of the program.
— Retail sales would be taxed at 2%, and revenue would be split evenly between the Missouri Veterans and Health and Care Fund, the Missouri Public Safety Fund, the Missouri Drug Treatment Fund, and the Early Childhood Development, Education and Care Fund, all of which would be established by Proposition C.
Under Amendment 3:
— An independent government entity called the “Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute” would be established. According to the proposal, the institute would research “cures for presently incurable disease.”
— The board of the Institute would issue licenses and determine all rules and regulations of the program.
— The board would consist of 9 members selected by Bradshaw, who would also serve as Chair.
— The application fee for a dispensary, cultivation, or manufacturing license is $25,000. The fee for a cultivation research facility will be $5,000.
— Retail sales will be taxed at 15% and all proceeds would go toward the Institute and its research efforts.
And what happens if more than one measure passes?
According to the Missouri constitution, if two conflicting constitutional amendments are approved by voters, the measure with the most votes will pass. However, Prop C could pass on its own or in addition to one of the amendments. According to Cardetti, in that case, the amendment would supersede any conflicting aspects of the statutory measure: For example, if both Amendment 2 and Proposition C pass, cannabis would be taxed at New Approach’s proposed 4%, not Missourians For Patient Care’s proposed 2%.