Secret donations pour in for Missouri medical marijuana push

4 weeks 3 hours 44 minutes ago Saturday, July 21 2018 Jul 21, 2018 Saturday, July 21, 2018 11:26:00 AM CDT July 21, 2018 in News
By: The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — An organization backing one of three competing medical marijuana initiatives in Missouri has continued to bring in large contributions despite the origins of most of the haul being kept secret.

The Missourians for Patient Care campaign committee raised $530,000 in monetary contributions between April and July, about $505,000 of which was funneled from a nonprofit corporation with the same name. The nonprofit isn't required to reveal its donors, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The committee also accepted more than $16,000 in in-kind contributions from the nonprofit that quarter. An additional $36,800 came from in-kind donations from First Rule, a firm listing the same address as the nonprofit and campaign committee.

Previous secret donations to the group were part of a March complaint to the Missouri Ethics Commission by Howard Cotner, a Springfield resident.

Cotner said the maneuver violated the Missouri Constitution by intentionally obscuring the source of donations. The ethics commission hasn't issued any findings on the complaint.

"We needed to raise money to have a social welfare organization that supports the ballot committee," said Travis Brown, one of the main backers of the campaign effort.

Brown declined to comment whether he thought the group's activities violated the law.

The newspaper reported in February that the group believes the secrecy is necessary because donors might be hesitant to contribute to a cause not recognized by the federal government.

"We set it up that way because most people who are supporters of it don't want to be known," said Mark Habbas, a lobbyist on the campaign. "They just want to keep their donations private."

The proposal would change state rules to legalize marijuana for medical use in helping to treat cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV/AIDS, terminal illness and intractable migraines. Two other groups collected signatures to place medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot. The secretary of state's office will certify signatures by mid-August and announce which groups gathered enough to make the November ballot.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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