JEFFERSON CITY • When Sheila Dundon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, the physical and emotional pain of chemotherapy, radiation and two surgeries was almost too much to bear.
Luckily, the cancer patients she has worked with throughout her career as a registered nurse somewhat prepared her for what was to come. And that's how she knew to try medical marijuana.
"I could not believe how it helped," Dundon said Thursday. "It helped with my nausea, it helped with my appetite and it helped clear my head."
Dundon, now 60, has been cancer free since 2012. She and Tom Mundell, former head of the state VFW and a Vietnam veteran, filed initiative petitions Thursday to put medical marijuana on the November 2016 ballot.
The two are part of New Approach Missouri, a group created in support of medical marijuana. The group has collected $35,816 in contributions as of a July report, plus $35,600 in contributions of $5,000 or more since then, according to the state Ethics Commission.
The group jump-started its campaign Thursday. Once the petitions are approved by the Secretary of State's Office, the group will need to collect almost 160,000 signatures to put it on the ballot. If it is put on the ballot -- and approved by voters -- Missouri would become the 24th state that allows medicinal marijuana.
The measure would leave the Department of Health and Senior Services in charge of setting a limit on how much a patient could purchase during a 30 day period. Only patients whose physicians put in writing that they have a medical need for marijuana would be allowed to purchase it. Qualifying medical conditions would include cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and any terminal illnesses. Physicians also could recommend it for patients with any other chronic, debilitating condition.
The state would license and regulate medical marijuana providers and the tax paid on the retail sale of pot would fund the state's veterans health care services.
"This measure is an absolutely win-win for Missouri Veterans," said Mundell, also president of the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations. "Not only will it provide veterans suffering illnesses much needed relief, but it will provide invaluable resources for our underfunded veterans health care programs throughout Missouri."
Laws prohibiting the use of marijuana in public or while operating a motor vehicle would remain intact.
State lawmakers previously have tried, and failed, to pass medical marijuana laws.
In 2014, however, Gov. Jay Nixon did sign a bill into law that allows the use of hemp oil for children with rare forms of epilepsy.