Four states vote on status of medical and recreational marijuana

Optum Workers' Comp
| Nov 08, 2018

Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a medical marijuana ballot initiative, Amendment 2, on Election Day, November 2018, making it one of two states during the midterm election voting in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. Missouri, often considered a bellwether state for elections, now joins a long list of states allowing the once-forbidden drug as a medical treatment. Approval of the measure will grant patients access to medical marijuana for various condition such as cancer, HIV, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions.

As part of the approved measure, a 4% sales tax applies to purchases of medical marijuana. This tax is earmarked for a newly-created fund for health and care services for veterans. A spokesman for New Approach Missouri, Jack Cardetti, said that in passing Amendment 2, voters "showed that increasing healthcare treatment options for patients and supporting veterans are bipartisan Missouri values."

Also on Election Day, Utah voters approved Proposition 2 designed to support the legalization of medical marijuana for individuals with qualifying conditions. The measure states that individuals can receive a medical marijuana card with a recommendation from an approved physician. Once a patient secures approval, they would be permitted to (during any one 14-day period) purchase either two ounces of unprocessed marijuana or an amount of marijuana product with no more than 10 grams of THC or cannabidiol. However, smoking or use of a device to facilitate the smoking of medical marijuana would still be prohibited.

Proposition 2 was designed to exempt marijuana from local and state sales taxes and it directs the state legislature to enact business license fees for marijuana businesses to fund the ongoing costs of the initiative's implementation.

"The passage of Proposition 2 illustrates just how broad support has grown for medical marijuana in the U.S.," Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said. "Even in socially-conservative states like Utah, most voters recognize marijuana has significant medical value, and they believe it should be available to patients who could benefit from it.”

Recreational marijuana
Additionally on Tuesday, two other states voted on ballot provisions dealing with the legalization of recreational marijuana. Voters in Michigan approved a measure to legalize the use of recreational marijuana while voters in South Dakota rejected a similar provision.

Impact on workers’ compensation
While the passage of these measures does not directly impact provision of medical treatment for workers’ compensation claims or permit usage of medical marijuana as a treatment for workers’ compensation claims, the OWCA government affairs team continues to monitor policy developments on medical marijuana, as we have experienced some trickle-down impact to workers’ compensation claims in various jurisdictions.

For questions on this or any other developing legislative or regulatory topics, please feel free to contact our Government Affairs Team at

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