March 7, 2017

House asked to consider legalizing medical marijuana

JEFFERSON CITY -- The Missouri House is again being asked to consider legalizing marijuana for some medical purposes.

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.

The House Committee on Health and Mental Health Policy heard from Doctor Adrianne Poe, who told the committee cannabis-based pain treatments would be safer than commonly used opioid-based medications. She cited a report from the National Academy of Sciences, which said that cannabis is safe and effective in treating pain.

"That is in direct opposition to all of the literature that we have that shows there is not a shred of evidence for the safe and effective use of chronic opioids for chronic pain," said Poe. "According to the CDC guidelines which tell us that the very first thing that physicians need to do is find an alternative therapy to opioids for the treatment of chronic pain. The National Academies has given us an answer on that and the answer is cannabis."

Heidi Rayl told lawmakers Missouri should not stop with the passage of the law that has allowed her to treat her son’s seizures with CBD oil.

"This is where our state is lacking. One type of medication does not treat everyone. I, as Zaden’s mother, should have the right to choose what is best for him," said Rayl.

Legislators were also told the passage of medical marijuana legislation would put Missouri’s laws in conflict with federal laws.

Jason Grellner with the Missouri, and National, Narcotics Officers’ Associations, told the committee, "If you pass legislation that is in violation of the Supremacy Act of the United States regarding scheduled drugs, I don’t think you want me choosing which laws I enforce and which ones I do not."

He also said passing a medical marijuana law would mean bypassing the FDA and its consumer protections.

"If I go to a Wallgreen’s in L.A. and buy a Tylenol and I go to a Wallgreen’s in New York City and buy a Tylenol, I am assured under FDA regulations that that is the same drug. If I walk into a medical marijuana shop and buy purple Kush on Wednesday, there is really no assurance in any state that has medical marijuana that if I go back on another day or to another medical marijuana shop that I am getting the same drug, because there is no standardization of dose," said Grellner.

Last year the House came the closest it’s ever been to passing medical marijuana legislation, but finally rejected a bill that would have allowed medical marijuana use only by terminal cancer patients in hospice care.

The committee’s chairman, Representative Keith Frederick (R-Rolla), said he is "contemplating" whether to have the committee vote on HB 437.