JEFFERSON CITY • The Missouri House on Monday endorsed a proposal allowing patients with long-term illnesses to access medical marijuana.
The original measure only applied to people with terminal illnesses, but the major point of debate Monday was whether to cover patients suffering from illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and epilepsy. Ultimately, the additional illnesses were included.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, said the measure was intended to ease the pain of people who are about to die. “I’m trying to provide some comfort to people who are in the last days of their life,” he said. “It just seems like this is the right thing to do.”
But Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, offered an amendment that would allow people with nonterminal illnesses — such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis — to access medical marijuana. “This is in the spirit of what our voters think when they think of medical marijuana,” Dogan said.
Although some lawmakers said they were concerned the amendment would kill the overall bill when it got to the Senate, it was added to the measure. The bill still needs a final vote to advance to that chamber.
The original measure also didn’t include coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder, but veterans and their families testified in favor of the bill earlier this year.
“The veterans of our state need this,” said Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis.
The House debated a similar proposal in 2016, but representatives ultimately voted it down. Beyond the proposed legislation, there have been multiple ballot initiatives trying to make medical pot legal in recent years.
Dogan said he supported this year’s measure because he didn’t want the state to miss out on a potentially lucrative business. “We could be left behind,” he said.
The legislation is House Bill 1554.