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Medical marijuana bill passes Missouri House

Medical cannabis related products are sold at a medical cannabis outreach clinic in Shelbyville, Ilinois, on April 29, 2017
Jeff Bossert | Illinois Public Media
Medical cannabis related products are sold at a medical cannabis outreach clinic in Shelbyville, Ilinois, on April 29, 2017

Legislation that would legalize marijuana for medical use in Missouri passed the state House on Tuesday.

The bill originally would have only allowed medical marijuana use for terminally ill patients, but the House added amendments last week to expand access to those with chronic and debilitating, but not necessarily fatal, illnesses.

“Health care professionals in Missouri will have to work with patients to figure out what dose and method of administration might work best for different patients and conditions,” said Rep. Lynn Morris, R-Nixa, who voted for the bill. “This bill provides a solid framework for us to proceed with medical cannabis in a manner that’s consistent with the medical literature and research that’s being conducted.”

Opponents argued that legalizing marijuana for medical use would enable more people to access it illegally, and could have unintended consequences such as people driving under the influence. Rep. Kirk Matthews, R-Pacific, also suggested that the legislature is the wrong body for determining whether marijuana is medicine.

“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 with FDA clinical trials, double-blind studies, etc. etc.,” he said.

Matthews also objected to what he called the ease in which the state would be allowed to declare some illnesses and conditions eligible for cannabis use.

“The Department of Health [and Senior Services] can add conditions if they have 10 physicians in our state that sign a petition,” he said. “It just heightens my concerns.”

But the sponsor, physician and Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, argued that it would not only help patients, but that passing a thoroughly vetted bill would be better than passing one or more improperly vetted ballot initiatives.

“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,” he said. “We may lose control of which direction we’re going to go in.”

The bill passed 112-44 on a bipartisan vote.

The bill is now with the Missouri Senate, where there is both support and opposition. But the slower pace of the upper chamber, and the fact that there are fewer than three weeks left in session, means its chances of passage this year are slim.

Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.