The Missouri House is one vote away from proposing that Missouri legalize the medical use of marijuana by people suffering from certain terminal or debilitating conditions.
House Bill 1554 would expand on a law passed in 2014 that allows the use of a cannabis extract, cannabidiol (CBD) oil, to treat intractable epilepsy. If HB 1554 became law, a patient suffering from conditions including cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder could use medical marijuana if a doctor signs a statement saying he or she could benefit from its use and that all options approved by the Food and Drug Administration have been considered.
The bill is sponsored by Representative Jim Neely (R-Cameron), who is also a doctor.
“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,” said Neely. He said the bill would give people, “another option at the end stages of life.”
House members including Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit) spoke about loved ones that might benefit from the legislation, such as his mother and sister who have multiple sclerosis.
Fitzwater said their neurologist, who he knows and trust, has said they should have the option of using marijuana for pain treatment.
“I trust his opinion. He went to medical school. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s spent his career focused on multiple sclerosis and his patients are mainly multiple sclerosis patients,” said Fitzwater. When he tells me that … [my] mom or [my] sister should have the option to come to their neurologist and discuss treatment options for pain – and this is a gentleman who is as professional as anybody I’ve ever met – they ought to have that opportunity.”
“Patients that have these debilitating diseases ought to have an option … when the doctors agree and there are professionals involved that know more about what’s going on with those patients than we do,” said Fitzwater.
Representative Gina Mitten (D-St. Louis) said a colleague of hers who is a practicing attorney must break her oath to uphold the law by using marijuana to treat her epilepsy, rather than use the prescription drugs that caused her to have a psychotic episode among other side effects.
“How is it that it’s okay to have to spend a night, or two nights, or three nights in a hospital due to medication that’s been prescribed and creates all kinds of other side effects, as opposed to something that we know in other states has worked very well for this disease?” asked Mitten.
Pacific Republican Paul Curtman sponsored adding PTSD to the legislation. He described what he knows some of his fellow comrades in the Marine corps faced, and said leaving this issue facing veterans out of the bill would be a “travesty.”
He spoke about a fellow Marine from Missouri whose experience overseas included having to routinely wash the blood of friends out of the back of a Humvee. Curtman said the man was prescribed by the Veterans’ Administration drugs that had numerous side effects. For a time he used marijuana and that worked for him, but he was arrested and forced to return to the drugs prescribed by the VA.
“The VA came by and said if you ever [use marijuana] again you’re jeopardizing your ability to use any of your VA benefits. So, after being on house arrest for a while with the VA checking up on him to make sure that he was taking the synthetic drugs that the VA wanted him to take, his father came home just a few weeks later only to find that his son had put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger,” said Curtman.
Under the bill the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services would issue medical cannabis registration cards to approved patients, or to parents in the cases of minor parents. The bill would only allow the use of smokeless forms of marijuana. HB 1554 also lays out how marijuana could be legally cultivated by licensed growers under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture.
Another favorable vote would send the legislation to the Senate. Two years ago the House rejected a bill that would have asked voters whether to legalize the limited, medical use of marijuana.