JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Marijuana advocates are calling it a first step toward legal medical marijuana. But the bill sponsors say the language is far narrower. With no opposition and several friendly hearings, a bill allowing access to a specific hemp extract to treat intractable epilepsy could become the first law in Missouri allowing use of a cannabis product for medical treatment.
Cannabidiol, known as CBD, is a non-psychotropic extract found in cannabis. It possesses so little THC that users experience no “high” and Sen. Eric Schmitt, who supports the language in the Senate, says that the issue is “very straightforward” and “not part of a larger marijuana debate.”
“I don’t consider this a medical marijuana bill,” Schmitt said. “This is something derived from this plant that has no psychotropic effect. But it has shown to offer significant relief to families and children with intractable epilepsy. There are families, whole families, moving to Colorado where they have access to this product.”
Schmitt’s son, Stephen, has intractable epilepsy, which is defined as epilepsy that has not responded effectively to three or more medication. At nine years old, Stephen is on the autism spectrum and experiences daily seizures. It was at an event raising funds for epilepsy that Schmitt first heard about CBD.
“This is a very specific bill,” Schmitt said. “If there is a larger medical marijuana debate then the public can have that, but right now the focus of this bill is to provide a proven treatment to families that have children that are suffering and can’t find relief.”
In the House, Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California, the bill sponsor, has benefited from friendly hearings with no stated opposition. Having successfully passed through the Rules committee, Jones says he’s received assurances that the bill would get floor time as early as next week.
Jones and Schmitt both told The Missouri Times that they personally knew of families with children with intractable epilepsy that were relocating to Colorado to access the new treatments. Jones says that while CBD can’t be available in Missouri soon enough to keep those folks in the state, future families would benefit from the new law.
“This bill is very narrow and it’s going to start helping people very soon,” Jones said. “One of the sticking points is that we’re cutting out private entities that would want to make a profit off this. The bill says that you can’t sell the oil at a price higher than the cost to manufacture it.”
Jones said he’s held meetings with the Missouri Department of Agriculture that have been extremely promising. MDA would be responsible for implementing a process to grow hemp and extract the CBD oil. Currently, it is illegal to grow hemp for any purpose in the state. Were the bill to pass, the Department would partner with a non-profit organization to grow and regulate the plants.
“They’ve indicated that if the bill passes they are willing to start doing this,” Jones said. “And I think their willingness is a good indicator that this bill can be passed and signed.”
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.