Missouri Voters, Not Lawmakers, Will Decide The Future Of Medical Cannabis
A measure that would have narrowly legalized medical marijuana died in the final week of Missouri’s legislative session, meaning the issue will be left entirely up to voters in November.
Only terminally ill patients and people with epilepsy could have obtained smokeless medical cannabis under a measure added to a healthcare bill by GOP Rep. Jim Neely from Cameron.
It was a more strict version of a medical marijuana than the House passed earlier this month, in which qualifying conditions included cancer and chronic illnesses such as Crohn's, Alzheimer's and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Democratic Sen. Jason Holsman of Kansas City, who has sponsored medical marijuana legislation since 2009, objected to Neely's amendment.
"It was not in a form that was workable for a functioning industry nor access for patients who really needed the cannabis," Holsman said.
Among Holman's objections were the regulatory framework for the bill, which would have put the program under the control of the state Department of Agriculture, rather than the Department of Health and Senior Services.
"How do you have a medical cannabis ... ran by the department of agriculture? It wasn't going to work," Holsman said, adding that he also opposed having only smokeless options and an apparent lack of investment in the state.
Neely, who is a physician, put the blame for the bill's failure squarely Holsman, saying the Democrat was the only member of a conference committee to speak against it.
"It's always disappointing when good legislation doesn't cross the finish line, but I believe the legislature will deal with this issue next year," Neely said in a statement.
Holsman says he was willing to amend the bill, but that Neely refused to do so.
But Holsman supports the language in an initiative petition by New Approach Missouri. It's one of four marijuana-related ballot proposals submitted to the Secretary of State's office earlier this month, and provides a wide latitude for qualifying conditions.
New Approach Missouri spokesman Jack Cardetti said a statewide vote is the best way to get medical cannabis, already legal in 29 states, in Missouri.
"The popularity of this among legislators is growing leaps and bounds, it's just not there yet. And that's why we decided to go the initiative petition route," Cardetti said. "We did not think [the medical marijuana bill] would pass this year, this is the fourth or fifth year that it's been introduced and it's been debated in Jeff City and it just never seems to get done."
New Approach Missouri submitted more than 300,000 signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State's office — more than double the minimum requirement.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter at the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3 Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig.