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Hemp oil heads to Nixon’s desk

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A bill allowing patients with epilepsy to use oil extracted from hemp as a form of medication is on its way to the desk of Gov. Jay Nixon after lawmakers in both chambers fast-tracked the bill.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California, and was carried in the senate by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale. Jones said he took up the issue after he heard stories about families moving from Missouri to Colorado to gain access to CBD oil, which as been found to be effective in treating intractable epilepsy — most often found in children.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, his wife Jamie, and his son Stephen.
Sen. Eric Schmitt, his wife Jamie, and his son Stephen.

CBD oil is currently available in Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Missouri’s bill is, according to Jones, the most restrictive of the CBD oil bills in the country. Under the bill, the state would partner with a non-profit group to make the CBD oil available to patients, and the hemp plants would be regulated and tested by the Department of Agriculture. CBD oil contains almost no THC, and therefore cannot get a user “high.”

Under the bill, any hemp plant exceeding permissible THC levels would be immediately destroyed, and the state Department of Health would be permitted to run clinical trials on the drug.

Patients would only have access to CBD oil if they have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy — which is defined as epilepsy that has not responded to at least 3 forms of medication.

Schmitt’s son, Stephen, suffers from intractable epilepsy and his wife, Jaime Schmitt, testified in the senate on the importance of the bill. Other witnesses, largely Colorado residents, say the oil can drastically reduce the frequency of seizures. On the floor, Schmitt said the bill represented hope.

“I often wonder what my son would say to me,” Schmitt said of his son, who is non-verbal. “Is he scared? Is there something more I can do? My wife and I have had hope before and it hasn’t worked. But if there is a chance, then we need to move forward. We can provide relief to these children, and I would urge us all to consider that.”

Eric Schmitt’s son was present in the House and Senate side galleries when the bodies advanced the bills today. The senate allowed Eric Schmitt’s bill to come up at the beginning of the day, and the House moved on the bill less than two hours later, fast tracking a bill that was filed only 30 days ago.

The bill was sent to Nixon’s desk after the Senate gave it unanimous approval and the House approved the measure 136-12.