Missouri may be on track to join the 29 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have legalized medical cannabis, after the state House of Representatives approved a new medical marijuana bill this week. The measure would allow individuals with terminal illnesses to use and possess medical cannabis in non-smokable forms. An amendment to the bill also expands the list of qualifying conditions to include non-terminal illnesses like cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and epilepsy.
"There's a lot of people in my world, from the hospice and the long-term care world, that feel that this would be appropriate for people to ease the pain, suffering, and the side-effects of the opioids, and this might be the best way to go," the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Jim Neely, said in a press statement, Marijuana Moment reports.
There are several different groups currently collecting signatures to place medical or recreational marijuana legalization measures on this year's election ballot. Neely warned his fellow legislators that if they fail to enact some form of medical cannabis law, voters are likely to support these ballot measures, which may end up creating a more robust form of legalization than legislators are comfortable with. "We might lose control of which direction we're going to go in," Neely said to the Kansas City Star.
The Republican-led House approved the measure with a strong 112-44 vote. The bill will now move to the state Senate, and from there to Governor Eric Greitens. It's chance of success is somewhat uncertain, as the state's current legislative session will end in less than three weeks, which may not be enough time for both chambers of the legislature to pass the bill. Opponents have argued that the bill would make it easier for children to gain access to cannabis, despite the fact that this has not occurred in any of the other states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Gov. Greitens' support for the bill is uncertain as well. Last year, Missouri State Senators also proposed a medical cannabis bill, but it failed to advance due to concerns that the governor would veto it. Greitens has said that he opposes most forms of cannabis legalization, but would support limited medical legalization, especially for children suffering from epilepsy. It remains to be seen whether he would consider the current bill too broad in scope to sign.
State Rep. Lynn Morris said that he supported the bill even though he doubted the efficacy of medical cannabis for treating Alzheimer's. "I'm wondering whether we took too big of a step by attaching all these amendments onto a wonderful bill of just taking care of people in the dying process," Morris said to the Kansas City Star. Despite this concern, the lawmaker voted for the bill, trusting that the state Senate would "strip out what they want to strip out."