My home state of Missouri has an opportunity to pass a medical marijuana bill this session, and a Republican is leading the fight. It is imperative to have a member of the GOP leading the way as the Show-Me State has gone from a “purple” swing state to a “deep red” Republican-controlled state in recent years. With the GOP outpacing the Democrats 116 to 45 (with one vacancy) in the Missouri State House and 24 to 9 (with one vacancy) in the Senate, and Eric Greitens in the Governor’s Mansion, nothing can be done without Republican support.
Thankfully, Republican Jim Neely is leading the fight by urging his colleagues to pass a medical cannabis bill in America’s Heartland. Remarkably, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp joined Neely in testifying in support of the House Bill 437 medical cannabis measure before the Missouri House Health and Mental Health Policy on March 1st. The bill is co-sponsored by a total of 9 Republicans and one Democrat.
House Bill 437 would allow the use of marijuana to treat irreversible debilitating diseases or conditions. Its sponsor, Cameron Republican Jim Neely, said it would expand on two Missouri laws. One allows the use of a cannabis extract, cannabidiol (CBD) oil, for treating intractable epilepsy. The other is the “right to try” law that lets doctors and patients use drugs that haven’t completed the approval process through the federal Food and Drug Administration.
The bill would have the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services create a list of conditions for which patients could be allowed to use medical marijuana. That list would have to include any conditions or diseases for which a clinical trial of medical marijuana has completed its first phase.
The bill would allow the Department to issue medical cannabis registration cards to Missourians 18 and older for whom a doctor has signed a statement saying the individual suffers from epilepsy or an irreversibly debilitating disease, could benefit from medical cannabis, and has considered all other treatment options. Parents would be allowed to obtain registration cards for their children.
While HB 437 isn’t as beneficial as the initiative that New Approach Missouri is looking to place on the 2018 ballot, the bill is a step in the right direction and public discussions of the bill will only help the cause to legalize medical marijuana in Missouri. Most marijuana reform measures passed by state legislators are much more restrictive than initiatives drafted by advocates. (In full disclosure, I once served on the board of Show-Me Cannabis, the reform organization that gave rise to the New Approach Missouri effort.) I tend to support any effort that improves the status quo and, speaking for myself, I don’t see the passage of HB 437 as any kind of detriment to Missouri voters passing a better law in 2018.
Chair of the Health and Mental Health Policy Committee, Keith Frederick, is considering allowing HB 437 to get a vote before the committee. Missouri voters, especially Frederick’s constituents, need to contact him and urge him to give House Bill 437, a sensible bill that will help sick and disabled patients, a vote. Good luck to all of those fighting for freedom and patients’ rights in the Show-Me State!