Pubdate: Fri, 20 Apr 2018
Source: Kansas City Star (MO)
Copyright: 2018 The Kansas City Star



State Rep. Jim Neely's bill that would legalize medical marijuana in a
smokeless form for Missourians with terminal illnesses has been
criticized as too restrictive and narrow.

But the measure could jump-start the push to make Missouri the 30th
state to allow medical marijuana.

More than 20 lawmakers, including three Democrats, have signed on as
co-sponsors of the bill. It passed out of committee this week and
awaits consideration in the full House.

The legislation would permit the use of hemp extract for terminally
ill patients. The state's current "Right to Try" law allows patients
with terminal illnesses to try experimental drugs without approval
from the Food and Drug Administration. It doesn't include marijuana.

Attitudes toward medical marijuana have shifted nationwide. Not only
have 29 states legalized it, nine states and Washington, D.C., also
have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

"Marijuana's everywhere anyway," Neely, a Republican from Cameron,
said. "We've got to find a better way of dealing with it."

Neely sponsored a similar bill last year that was approved by a
committee before being killed in the House.

The latest proposal doesn't offer an extensive list of treatable
diseases. Still, it's a better alternative than three petition
initiatives aimed at placing the issue before voters in November.

Two of the three would amend Missouri's Constitution if passed. The
third is simply a statutory amendment.

If both petitions proposing constitutional amendments gain approval,
only the one with the most votes would become law. All involved would
likely end up in court.

Another obstacle to consider: A constitutional amendment would
restrict lawmakers' ability to expand or revise the measure.
Legislation to legalize, tax and regulate medical marijuana is the
best option.

Missouri lawmakers don't need to re-invent the wheel. Arkansas voted
in 2016 to legalize medical marijuana for 17 conditions, created a
medical work commission and allocated tax revenue to technical
institutes, vocational schools, work force training and the state's
general fund.

Marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities, which voters can
ban in their municipalities, are regulated. Legislators can amend
sections of the measure as well.

Missouri lawmakers also could consider aspects of Illinois' program,
which is still in its pilot phase. Patients can receive
cannabis-related treatment if they've been diagnosed with at least one
of 41 conditions.

Dispensaries have collected about $123.6 million in retail sales the
last three years. What cash-strapped state wouldn't want to deposit
taxes from those sales into their coffers?

Medical marijuana remains a divisive topic in Missouri. Supporters say
access to medical marijuana reduces opioid use and death from opioid

Critics fear it will bring Missouri closer to legalizing weed for
recreational purposes. But the state is still a long way from
seriously considering that possibility.

For now, lawmakers should take one small step to provide relief to
those with terminal illnesses.
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MAP posted-by: Matt