How Missouri Marijuana Activists Plotted to Stop Brad Bradshaw from Becoming Weed Czar


Due to Missouri voters, Dr. Brad Bradshaw's resume doesn't include Weed Czar. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Due to Missouri voters, Dr. Brad Bradshaw's resume doesn't include Weed Czar.

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm election, Missouri's cannabis backers were already gearing up for what they feared would be the real fight: a post-election legal battle between two competing constitutional amendments with vastly different visions for the state's medical weed industry.

That legal battle never happened. On November 6, voters gave their support to just one marijuana ballot initiative, Amendment 2, which is now in the process of implementation. But a draft document shared with Riverfront Times reveals that Amendment 2's organizers at New Approach Missouri were seriously preparing for a "worst case scenario" — gaining a plurality of votes, but still losing the election to Amendment 3.

Funded and written by Brad Bradshaw, a Springfield-based surgeon/attorney, Amendment 3 similarly sought to amend the state constitution to legalize the sale and cultivation of medical cannabis. And if both rival amendments got approval from voters, the one with the most votes would become law.

The devil was truly in the details for Amendment 3. Bradshaw's plan called for a brand-new, self-contained regulatory agency under the direction of Bradshaw himself. Bradshaw also promised this new branch of Missouri government would cure cancer. Critics blasted the Bradshaw's ambition as a power grab, labeling him Missouri's wannabe "Weed Czar."

But it wasn't Bradshaw's hubris that caught the attention of Michael Wolff.

"When I first read Amendment 3, I thought, 'There's something fundamentally wrong with this,'" recalls the former Missouri Supreme Court justice, who represented New Approach Missouri during its ballot initiative push.

It was Wolff who took lead on preparing New Approach's post-election litigation against Bradshaw. To do so, Wolff reached deep into the past, all the way back to the 1820 Act of Congress that had authorized Missouri's statehood, and specifically the condition that the state enact a "republican" form of government.

In this context, Wolff explains, Congress was using the "small r" definition of republican — the principle that a government's officials must ultimately be accountable to voters.

"It's a fairly obscure doctrine, but it's the truth," Wolff says. "Decisions that are made by the government are made by people who are answerable to the voters. Even if you have an appointee, the appointee is appointed by someone who is accountable to the voters."

And in that doctrine lay Wolff's strategy for attacking Bradshaw's proposed cancer-fighting, pot-regulating research facility: Amendment 3 designated Bradshaw as the initial appointing authority over an all-powerful research board, whose unelected members would hold the sole power to regulate marijuana in Missouri. 

Wolff argues that such a system would create a "self-perpetuating" system of appointments that would violate no less than the U.S. Constitution. New Approach's draft petition contended that even if Missourians approved Amendment 3, the Missouri Secretary of State had an obligation to block it from entering the state constitution.

"You can't set up parallel government just for medical marijuana," Wolff notes. "What we were trying to do with this proposed litigation was to ask the courts to stop the Secretary of State from certifying this thing as having passed, look at the constitutionality of it, and then if it's unconstitutional put in the one that came in second place." In New Approach's strategizing, that would be its own, rival amendment.

Of course, the theory was never put into practice, as New Approach's Amendment 2 didn't place second. Instead, more than 65 percent of voters approved New Approach's plan to regulate medical weed through the state's Department of Health and Senior Services. Amendment 2's competitors, Amendment 3 and Proposition C, both came in under 50 percent, rendering Wolff's strategy moot.

For New Approach, that electoral victory was the "dream scenario," says Jack Cardetti, a former spokesman for New Approach who now works for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association. To Cardetti, that Amendment 3 couldn't muster even 50 percent approval from voters was a big victory, one that allowed Missouri to move forward with implementing a medical marijuana system — and not just mire cannabis backers in litigation.

"What we were strategizing for was the inevitability that Brad Bradshaw would want some of Amendment 3 to survive, even if he didn't get the most votes," Cardetti says. "The real concern was that it would delay implementation of Missouri's medical marijuana program."

That implementation is now underway. On January 5, the state's Department of Health and Senior Services will begin accepting application fees. Actual patient forms are expected to be available on June 4.

Still, if you are a patient, you may want to temper your expectations. Some states have taken two years or more to get their medical marijuana programs off the ground, and while Missouri seems off to a good start — for instance, you are now legally allowed to discuss cannabis with your doctor — actually getting that weed prescription is further down the road.

How far? According to an FAQ posted to Department of Health and Senior Services website, "we anticipate medical marijuana may be available for purchase as early as January 2020."   

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at

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