A state House member wants to expand on a Missouri law passed in 2014 that allows the use of hemp oil to treat intractable epilepsy to allow the use of that substance in treating other conditions.
Representative Donna Baringer (D-St. Louis) sponsors House Bill 937, which would allow the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil to treat several “serious conditions” as specified in the bill. That list includes cancer, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, inflammatory bowel disease, as well as other diseases or their symptoms.
The bill would also drop the requirement that a patient’s epilepsy be intractable – defined by the 2014 law as epilepsy that has not responded to three or more treatment options – before he or she may use CBD oil as a treatment.
Baringer testified for the 2014 legislation, House Bill 2238. She told the House Committee on General Laws she wants to expand on that bill after learning that only 64 of about 11,000 eligible Missouri patients are using CBD oil to treat their epilepsy.
“So my question was, ‘Why is this happening?’ and the answer came to be in the original legislation we had very tightly and stringently written it, and while that was good in 2014 because this is our first time ever talking hemp oil, we’ve now found that we now need to readdress it,” said Baringer.
The committee heard from John Curtis, the production director for BeLeaf, one of the cultivators of CBD oil licensed by Missouri. He said HB 937 would ease what he called a “bottleneck,” that has resulted in so few patients in Missouri using CBD oil.
He said that bottleneck begins with the 2014 law’s requirement that a neurologist recommend CBD oil for a patient, and only for patients with intractable epilepsy.
“Because these folks have to have intractable epilepsy … they get pushed away from standard neurologists onto a specialized subset known as epileptologists. There’s just not very many of those in the state, and they’re all associated with major hospital systems that, due to conflict with federal law and potential concern about liability, will not allow doctors who have admitting privileges there to recommend this,” said Curtis.
HB 937 would change Missouri law to allow a physician to recommend CBD oil for a patient rather than specify that a neurologist must make the recommendation.
The bill would also allow a greater level of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) allowed by law in hemp oil – .9% by weight. The current limit is .3% by weight.
Baringer said increasing the limit on the amount of THC would also allow the treatment of more conditions with CBD oil, and it will still not give a patient a “high.”
HB 937 would also allow the state to issue 10 licenses for the cultivation of cannabis. Currently only two may be issued. Baringer said with only two cultivators in the state, many Missouri users of CBD oil are getting it from out-of-state suppliers.
The committee also heard from Sandra Davis of Imperial who had been using opioid pain relievers after surgery for oral cancer, and then began using CBD oil. She said before using CBD oil she was in so much pain she could not eat or talk, and her doctor was about to put her on a feeding tube.
“When I took the CBD oil I did not have to take my pain medication. I mean zero – none at all. It increased my appetite because I could actually eat. I could move my jaw,” said Davis. Through tears she continued, “I can’t get CBD oil. I don’t qualify. I don’t want someone to ship it illegally to me and that makes me a criminal … I can get 400 OxyContin at one time and become addicted. If you could just expand this bill for people like me who are cancer patients.”
The committee on General Laws is expected to vote on House Bill 937 as early as Thursday.