House approves limited medical marijuana proposal

The Missouri House has voted to allow those suffering from terminal and debilitating conditions to use medical marijuana.  The proposal now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Representative Jim Neely sponsored HB 1554, a medical marijuana proposal, that the House sent to the Senate on May 1, 2018. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

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 House voted 112-44 to send that bill to the Senate, but some Republicans spoke against IT even though it is sponsored by one of their fellows.

Pacific Republican Kirk Mathews said the legislative process is not the proper way for a drug to be approved.

“I don’t know of any other medicines that become medicine by an act of the legislature versus the process that we’ve gone through for years in the history of our country and medicine in our country, with FDA clinical trials, double-blind studies, etcetera, etcetera,” said Mathews.

He also argued that the bill is too broad in what conditions it would allow medical marijuana to be used for, because it would allow the Department of Health and Senior Services to add conditions to that list if at least ten physicians sign a petition calling for it to be added.

“We don’t know what conditions we are allowing this to be used for if we pass this bill,” said Mathews.

Representative J. Eggleston (R-Maysville) said passing HB 1554 would send Missouri down a similar path to that the nation has taken with opioids.  Those are now seen as the crux of a health crisis, but they started off as a way to treat pain.

Representative Kirk Mathews (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

“Surely the companies behind them would only care about relieving others’ pain and doctors would only prescribe for that reason, and the recipients would only use them for that reason and not use them for that reason and not use them for recreational fashion, and surely it wouldn’t get away from us to where other people would rob medicine cabinets or things like that, and yet all of that stuff is happening.  Now we’re having to deal with the aftermath of those unintended consequences,” said Eggleston.

The bill was sent to the Senate on the strength of bipartisan support.  Representative Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills) told bill sponsor Jim Neely (R-Camdenton), who is a doctor, that he hoped the bill would become law.

“I know in your career you’ve seen a lot of different things, seen a lot of people that have been impacted, and maybe in your thinking, you’re like, ‘Hey, this might help them get through life or increase their standard of living,’ so just wanted to thank you for it,” said Smith.

The bill also earned support from some in House leadership, including the Majority Floor Leader, Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold).

“I think [Representative Neely] has done a fantastic, fabulous job, channeling this down to what the members of this body wanted to see,” said Vescovo.  “I’m going to go ahead and cast my vote for the terminally ill in my district and across the state.”

HB 1554 goes to the Senate with less than three weeks remaining in the legislative session.

Earlier stories:  

Missouri House considers legalizing medical use of marijuana

Bill to legalize limited medical marijuana heard in House committee

Representatives say flood recovery continues, urge documenting of damage

Many Missourians are still recovering from flooding in recent weeks.  Two House members say that recovery could continue for months, and urge those Missourians to document their damage.

Representative Shawn Rhoads (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Shawn Rhoads (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representatives Shawn Rhoads (R-West Plains) and Kirk Mathews (R-Pacific) were two among many House members whose districts were struck hard.

Mathews said two municipalities he serves were hit particularly hard – Eureka and Pacific.

“The areas that were affected in each one are a little different.  Eureka was more impacted in a commercial district – they had some residential – but Pacific was really impacted in a residential area.  Over 200 homes in an area that was hit very, very hard,” said Mathews.

Mathews spent an entire weekend sandbagging in both communities, and Governor Eric Greitens (R) also filled sand bags in Eureka.  Mathews said a commercial district in Eureka was protected by flood control efforts, but despite similar efforts in Pacific, many homes were damaged.

Rhoads said in West Plains six inches of rain fell in three hours.  He said preplanning there was key.  State rescue boats were part of the response effort, which was staged out of a nearly completed fire station.

“They made over 100 rescues Saturday night,” said Rhoads.  “No one hurt, nobody killed.”

Representative Kirk Matthews (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Kirk Mathews (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

As for damage, Rhoads said a few homes in West Plains were damaged while two of the hardest hit businesses were DRS, a military equipment manufacturer with government contracts, and Armstrong Flooring, each of which he said suffered damage estimated at around $10-million.

Rhoads noted that Governor Greitens praised the response in West Plains as being, “textbook.  This is the way it’s supposed to be done.”

Cleanup is continuing in both districts, but both representatives said the focus now is also shifting to documenting damage so that affected areas can get assistance.

“The assessors are turning in their damage to the [State Emergency Management Agency], and SEMA’s going to compile it up and then go east with it to the [Federal Emergency Management Agency] folks and I think that’s where we need to be quick about this so that we can get that help so we can get something to people to say, ‘Hey, look, here you go, now we got you back in normal, where you were kind of before this all happened,’” said Rhoads.

Mathews agreed that it’s important that everyone document their damage quickly, “so we can make sure that whatever funds are available are appropriately applied for.”

Meanwhile, both representatives say the long-term response will continue.

“It’s a double-edged sword for someone to lose their home but for the business that employs them to also be inoperable and they don’t have an income,” said Mathews.  “That’s why it has to be a two-pronged effort to really help the commercial areas that were affected get back on their feet as fast as we can as well as helping the people who are affected in their personal residence.”

Rhoads said relief efforts must carry on to help those displaced, whose recovery won’t be completed in a matter of days or weeks.

“People come in and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got an 8-month-old and our house is gone, and all their clothes, the changing table, the baby bed,” said Rhoads.

Both representatives lauded the response of volunteers as well as law enforcement and state officials to recent flooding.

House votes to send proposed ridesharing company regulations to Governor Greitens

The state House has voted to send Governor Eric Greitens (R) a bill to regulate ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

Representative Kirk Mathews (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Kirk Mathews (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representatives voted 144-7 to endorse House Bill 130, sponsored by Pacific Republican Kirk Mathews.  He told lawmakers such companies could mean thousands of jobs in Missouri, but those companies might leave the state if his bill failed.

“There’s enormous demand for these services in our state,” said Mathews.  “The economic driver that this can be for our state, not just in the way that there will be thousands of new small businesses, but keeping Missouri competitive to compete on the national stage for high-tech businesses.”

The bill would require such companies, which let customers use apps to connect them to drivers offering rides, to pay a $5,000 licensing fee and conduct driver background checks and vehicle inspections.  It would also exempt companies from local taxes and bar the hiring of drivers guilty of certain offenses.

The bill had broad bipartisan support, including from St. Louis Democrat Karla May, who had filed her own rideshare legislation.

“I just want to tell you congratulations and I’m excited,” May said to Mathews.  “I can’t wait to see these jobs come into fruition.”

HB 130 advanced in part because of a compromise with Kansas City and St. Louis, who wanted criminal background checks of rideshare drivers including fingerprinting.  Under the compromise, rideshare companies will perform checks on drivers and Kansas City and St. Louis can audit those records twice a year.

It is now up to Governor Greitens whether to sign HB 130 into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his action.  If it becomes law it will take effect on August 28.

Missouri House gives initial approval to ridesharing company regulations

The Missouri House has given initial approval to a bill that would allow rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft to expand services in the state.

Representative Kirk Mathews (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Kirk Mathews (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

House Bill 130 would require background checks on national and local drivers, inspections of vehicles, an annual registration fee of $5,000, and would exempt such companies from local or municipal taxes.

It would allow such companies to expand beyond municipalities that have passed their own ordinances governing rideshare companies – so far that’s Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia, and Springfield.

The bill is sponsored by Representative Kirk Mathews (R-Pacific).  He said the benefits of allowing transportation network companies to expand in Missouri include the creation of jobs and businesses, and a reduction in the number of drunk driving arrests in the state.

“At its core this bill is a free-market solution that produces jobs through innovation and technology,” said Mathews.  “Add Missouri to the list of 38 other states who have passed similar legislation and provided their citizens with the opportunities provided by transportation network companies.”

Mathews said the bill addresses concerns raised last year that Kansas City authorities would struggle to monitor the compliance of companies with the new regulations.

“We added an amendment that provides Kansas City the right twice each year to conduct a random audit on TNC drivers, with a fine for violation as well as other notification provisions,” said Mathews.

“The bill now also provides for TNCs to provide all necessary information to investigate and resolve any criminal complaints,” Mathews adds.

Representative Lauren Arthur (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Lauren Arthur (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The House also voted to require companies to have policies on protecting the personal information of riders.  That was proposed by Kansas City Democrat Lauren Arthur.

She said users of Uber and Lyft often submit a great deal of personal information, “like your home address, your credit card information, and the TNC has the ability to collect records on your travel patterns – where you’re going, where you are at the moment.”

House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) on the opening day of the session named the bill as a priority.

Another favorable vote would send HB 130 to the state Senate.