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Missouri May Allow Terminal Patients Access to THC, But No Smoking

Missouri terminal patients THC Cannabis Now
Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now

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Missouri May Allow Terminal Patients Access to THC, But No Smoking

On Tuesday, Missouri made a crucial step towards expanding their state’s medical marijuana program when a limited access bill passed the state’s House of Representatives.

The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would expand the state’s current CBD-for-epilepsy-only law to allow the terminally ill to access full spectrum medical cannabis.

While the new law, HB 1554, still falls among the strictest in the nation, it would expand access in Missouri. Patients suffering from a list of terminal conditions yet to be named will be able to have access to medical marijuana in a smokeless form. Patients with other non-life-threatening diseases would have access to a hemp extract that’s at least five percent CBD, with no more than 0.3 percent THC.

The bill’s system for differentiating between the two groups of people — those with terminal illnesses and those with epilepsy — gets a bit confusing. The bill’s summary notes, “A medical cannabis registration card may only be issued for terminal illnesses and a hemp extract registration card may only be issued for intractable epilepsy.”

Additionally, the bill says that certain other debilitating, long-term diseases will qualify for medical marijuana.

The full list of what’s currently being recognized as a “debilitating condition” is cancer, glaucoma, HIV, ALS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s, MS, PTSD and epilepsy.

But if people with epilepsy and other serious conditions would be allowed access to medical marijuana, why is Missouri creating all this separate CBD-only infrastructure? The bill creates various matching permits for both cannabis and CBD producers. CBD-only dispensaries would be called “cannabidiol oil care centers,” and full spectrum marijuana retailers would be called “cannabis care centers.” The bill also puts forth a system with matching cultivation and processing licenses. Since the bill does not legalize cannabis smoking, both hemp and marijuana growers will have to turn their harvests into oil.

Despite the confusion on details, it has been clear for a while that the intent of this bill was to help people in hospice care and end-of-life situations. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Neely, told a crowd last month: “There’s a lot of people in my world, from the hospice and the long-term care world, that feel that this would be appropriate for people to ease the pain, suffering and the side-effects of the opioids and this might be the best way to go.”

Neely also cited President Donald Trump’s “leadership” on the marijuana legalization issue as the House debate closed, according to a tweet from Eapen Thampy, a lobbyist working for medical cannabis legalization in Missouri.

Following today’s vote, Neely noted if lawmakers didn’t get it done in the next three weeks — when the state’s legislative session ends, the voters may. “If we don’t take action,” Neely said on Tuesday, “voters of this state may very well take the decision out of the hands of the politicians and put it in the hands of the voters.”

Some believe this may be a move by Missouri Republicans to appear pro-pot, taking the winds out of the sails of Missouri Democrats going into the midterm elections this fall.

Longtime Missouri activist Amber Langston, currently serving as Deputy Director of Show-MeCannabis, a Missouri organization working to legalize marijuana in the state, says she isn’t giving the current bill much hope and thinks Republicans are attempting to ride the pro-cannabis energy through summer.

“I think that’s what they are banking on, but we will still be running an educational campaign,” Langston told Cannabis Now, referencing her organization’s effort to get a medical marijuana initiative on the November election ballot. “But support for medical [marijuana] is so great that it seems unlikely we could lose 20 percent or more support [before the election]. Perhaps I am wrong, but we have also been running a grassroots effort on this for seven years. So we have some public legitimacy.”

TELL US, do you think Missouri should expand their medical marijuana program?

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