By the time many of you read this, the local and state primary election contests will be settled. In this age of nonstop campaigns, that means the races and ballot measures for November’s general election will soon be fully engaged.

That also means Missourians are going to hear and read a lot about the medical benefits of marijuana.

In addition to proposals to increase the state fuel tax, change state redistricting, increase the state’s minimum wage and hopefully institute sweeping ethics reform, there are three ballot measures that would legalize medical marijuana.

That’s right, three different measures.

All three would allow patients with cancer, HIV, epilepsy, terminal illness and a variety of other conditions access to medical marijuana, according to The Associated Press.

The differences among the proposals largely stem from how cannabis would be regulated and taxed and where those new tax dollars would be directed. Two of the proposals would amend the Missouri Constitution and one would amend state law.

Proponents of the marijuana ballot initiatives are confident Missouri voters will approve them. They say the time is right. The trend lines are clear.

Surveys consistently show the overwhelming majority of Americans, 85 percent, support the use of cannabis to treat medical conditions. While that doesn’t necessarily guarantee the majority of Missourians do, polling on the issue suggest the ballot measures will pass here in the Show-Me State.

Thirty states already permit the use of the plant for medical purposes while nine states allow it for recreational use. Experts say one reason for the rapid increase of state legalizations is the growing acceptance of marijuana to treat a wider array of medical conditions.

Marijuana has long been used as a tool for pain management and is recognized as a treatment option for nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy. But research suggests the drug could have even wider benefits.

For instance, the rise of opioid use and overdoses in the United States has spurred the use of marijuana as an alternative to opiates and as a treatment option to opioid addiction.

Another highly promising area of research is its use for PTSD in veterans who are returning from combat zones, according to a recent Harvard Medical School report. Many veterans and their therapists report drastic improvement and clamor for more studies, and for a loosening of governmental restrictions on its study.

Studies also show marijuana can be effective for some patients in treating anxiety and depression.

While the medical community as a whole has largely been dismissive of prescribing marijuana in the past, that is changing as more research is being conducted.

Regardless, patients are embracing it, which is why it is very likely Missouri will be the 31st state to allow medical marijuana.

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