After an evening of sometimes emotional debate, the Missouri House approves medical marijuana bill for the state. House Bill (HB) 1554 was passed by a voice vote on Monday, April 23. The measure would make it legal for some seriously or terminally ill patients to use non-smokable forms of cannabis to treat their conditions.
Rep. Jim Neely, a Republican from Cameron, is the sponsor of the bill. He is also a physician at the Cameron Regional Medical Center. He addressed the House several times during Monday’s debate, according to local media. Neely told the body that his views stem from his years of experience in the medical field.
“The idea behind that (the bill) is a result of my observation as a person who has worked in healthcare for several decades, and it just seems like this is the right thing to do,” he said.
Neely said that his original intention with the law was to help provide relief to dying patients.
“My bill has to do with people that are terminal, and so I’m trying to provide some comfort to the folks who are in the last stages of life,” Neely said.
HB 1554 defines a terminal illness as one that “without life-saving procedures will result in death in the near future or a state of permanent unconsciousness from which recovery is unlikely.”
Lawmakers Expand Scope of Bill
But as the members of the House discussed the measure, several Representatives offered amendments to allow more patients access to medical marijuana.
Rep. Shamed Dogan, a Republican from Ballwin, proposed adding epilepsy, multiple sclerosis (MS), glaucoma, Crohn’s disease and other medical conditions to the bill.
Republican Rep. Travis Fitzwater of Holts Summit asked his colleagues to support the amendment. He also told the House that both his mother and his sister have MS.
Democrats also got behind the amendment. Rep. Gina Mitten of St. Louis passionately implored all members to help people like the Fitzwater family. Rep. Dogan’s amendment succeeded and lawmakers then added it to the bill.
Rep. Paul Curtman, a Republican from Pacific who is also a Marine Corps infantry veteran, suggested another amendment. He wanted Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to also be included as a condition eligible for treatment with MMJ.
Curtman shared the story of a Missouri vet who sought help from the VA to treat his PTSD. VA doctors prescribed numerous pharmaceuticals, which failed to provide the vet with relief.
“So, this Marine found some cannabis that he was able to use for medical purposes, but since it was illegal his neighbor called the police, ratted him out. The police came, arrested him,” Curtman said.
Curtman’s voice cracked when he said the stricken vet had eventually taken his own life.
HB 1554 has several more hurdles to clear before it becomes law. The House must vote and give its approval one more time, before sending it the state Senate for consideration. If the bill succeeds there, it would then have to be signed into law by Missouri Governor Eric Greitens.