It was a big day for Missouri. On a normal Tuesday in June, its Senate chose to give initial approval to a proposed bill that would legalize medical cannabis for seriously ill patients, who would also have the benefit of a marijuana delivery service. The bill, which earlier last week cleared the House by a 112-44 vote, has huge implications for patients across the state.
President Pro Tem Ron Richard, a Republican, referred the bill to the Senate Committee on Health and Pensions on a second reading. If the committee approves it there, the bill would then return to the full Senate for a third reading vote. From there, it could potentially end up on the desk of Republican Governor, Eric Greitens.
Marijuana Delivery Service for Missouri Patients
As it reads now, the bill would allow patients with legitimate and serious illnesses to buy and use “smokeless” cannabis products, such as edibles and concentrates. Introduced by Jim Neely, a Republican representative and physician, the bill qualifies a number of severe health conditions for cannabis treatment, such as multiple sclerosis, HIV, cancer, and even post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Because of the bedridden severity of many of these conditions, it would qualify patients to have premium-grade cannabis delivered to their doorstep, by a legal, licensed, and reliable medical marijuana dispensary. They will not need to drive anywhere, park somewhere, walk everywhere, and they will not need their caretakers to fetch it for them.
Missouri Politicking May Pass Medical Weed
Politically, Missouri is an interesting state. It is predominantly a red state, full of Republicans. Back in the 2016 presidential election, 56 percent of voters favored Donald Trump. As such, bill supporters are working feverishly to cement the notion that legalizing medical weed forms part of Trump’s agenda. Just last week, as the debate closed in the House, Neely cited Trump’s “leadership” on the issue himself.
Trump said many things during his presidential campaign, some of which may never happen, but he did voice unwavering support for legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. Earlier this month, being June 2018, the president allegedly agreed with Senator Cory Gardener, another Republican, that he would support all efforts to prevent federal interference in states that have legalized cannabis.
Approving a measure to legalize marijuana in the overwhelmingly Republican Senate could prove a political win for party members, since three ballot initiatives are currently competing to legalize weed medically that may yet make it to the November ballot. Over the weekend, all three of these campaigns certified signatures to qualify them for public question.
Since, in general, Democrats are supportive of marijuana reform more than Republicans are; many believe that having an initiative to legalize on the ballot will attract some Democrat turnout. This could prove problematic for Republicans in Missouri if the current bill fails to pass in November, as it is almost a guarantee that at least one of the proposed bills will make its way to the state ballot.
With Missouri’s legislative session ending in just a few short weeks, there is a great deal of pressure to pass the bill through the committee and get it back to the full Senate as quickly as possible. Any delays or hold-ups could endanger any chance the legislation may have of reach Greitens’s desk before this year’s legislative session ends.
What Politicians Think of Legalizing Medical Marijuana
Neely, who has extensive hospice experience, is very adamant that the bill must pass. “We want to provide this comfort to the folks here in Missouri,” he said. Bill opponents note that it would enable cannabis treatments to bypass the clinical trial process of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which could make it difficult to determine safety and efficacy of new drugs and increase child use.
Others showed concern that the amendment made the initial bill too broad to understand. Lynn Morris, a Republican representative from Nixa, said personal experience of visiting his mother in an elderly memory care unit made him doubt whether cannabis could treat Alzheimer’s, and even if it should be on the list of qualifying conditions.
“I do not think there is anything medical marijuana could have done for that person, for my mom,” Morris explained. “I am wondering whether we took too big of a step by attaching all these amendments onto a wonderful bill of just taking care of people in the dying process.” Many would argue survival preferable.
Despite this, Morris still voted in favor of the bill, claiming he felt it included sufficient state oversight to appease him, and that the Missouri Senate could “strip out what they want to strip out.” As of yet, no timeline exists for when the bill might be in front of the Senate. Several groups are also busy collecting signatures to ensure several medical marijuana questions are in the ballot for the November elections.
These proposed questions consist of different language. Some would widen access to marijuana more than others would. Neely clarified to colleagues that if legislature fails to approve medical cannabis this year, voters may consider those questions the only options remaining to them. “We might lose control of which direction we are going to go in,” Neely explained.
With just three weeks left until the legislative session ends, Neely feels optimistic that the bill would pass and become official law. Across the country, medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states. Thus far, nine states have legalized weed for recreational use, including Washington D.C. Under federal law, cannabis remains a scheduled drug and is therefore still illegal.
A lawyer with Husch Blackwell in Denver, Steve Levine, who represents folks in the legal pot market there, says that the conflict between federal and state laws has been causing, and is continuing to cause, major headaches within the industry, particularly when it comes to certain issues, such as banking, the tax code, and even using a marijuana delivery service.
Despite federal opposition to legalization, national laws seem to be having no effect on states legalizing on their own. In fact, the state-by-state march to weed freedom is gaining momentum. “I think there has been a pretty strong push nationally,” Levine opined, “and even in conservative states, Gallup polls are over 60 percent in support of medical marijuana.” In the end, federal law will have to change.