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In late April 2018, the Missouri state House of Representatives made efforts to legalize medical cannabis. Initially, the bill (HB 1554) was written to cover solely terminally ill patients. The House expanded the bill, however, to encompass those with chronic, debilitating, but non-fatal diseases. The bill intended to limit access to medical marijuana to a smokeless form.
Opponents of the bill claimed legalizing medical cannabis would enable easier access to illegal street cannabis. According to one opponent, Republican Representative Kirk Matthews:
The Department of Health [and Senior Services] can add conditions if they have 10 physicians in our state that sign a petition. It just heightens my concerns.
In contrast, sponsor Republican Representative Jim Neely, a top supporter, stated:
If we don’t take action to get patients with intractable conditions the right to try medical cannabis, the voters of this state may very well take the decision out of the hands of the politicians and put it in their [own] hands.
The other primary sponsor, Bill Eigel, is a Missouri state senator. The bill passed through the House with a 112-44 bipartisan vote. After the house, the bill will be passed forth to the senate. The bill is then off to committee. If unsuccessful, the issue will be left for voters to decide come November.
Four groups submitted signed petitions addressed to the Secretary of State. The petitions urge officials to put medical marijuana on the ballot this November. The four groups are:
Most proposals seek to amend Missouri constitution. The amendment would allow the legislature to make laws on medical cannabis, so long as they don’t interfere with the language therein. According to the state Constitution, any proposed changes to amendments require a vote by Missourians.
The senate is expected to make their own amendments to the bill. According to Democrat State Senator Jason Holsman, the bill might be poorly formulated. He worries the bill does not leave room for an industry to form. Holsman supports the cause but believes the bill requires less narrow language.
Medical cannabis is legal in already 30 states and the District of Columbia (Washington DC). The issue is contentious politically, but research has started to detail the therapeutic potential of the drug.