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Medical marijuana bill perfected in House after emotional debate


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A heavily amended version of the Missouri Compassionate Care Act, which would legalize medical marijuana in Missouri if approved by voters in the state, was perfected in the House on Tuesday. In a roll call vote that crossed party lines, the legislation was perfected 91-59.

The amended legislation allows marijuana to be used only for cancer patients under hospice care and was also amended to regulate the industry and laws surrounding the limited legalization of the drug in the state. Many of the amendments were passed to allow House members skeptical of the legislation to vote for it, all while racing against the ticking time bomb of an initiative petition that could put medical marijuana on the ballot in November without any restrictions or regulations.

“The only reason I’m supporting it now is because it has some restrictions,” said Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington. “I can go back to my constituents and tell them we have properly regulated.”

Four amendments were added to the bill that limited the use of marijuana to end-of-care hospice patients with cancer, regulated who can dispense the marijuana and where, regulated the storage of medical marijuana and applied the laws surrounding regular marijuana to those who misuse medical marijuana.

However, many who supported the original legislation decried the amendment process, saying it watered down a needed bill. Some still pledged their support, saying it moved a needed conversation forward, while others opposed the watered-down version.

“We’re going to hopefully pass it to at least move the conversation forward,” said Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit . “My desire behind the whole bill is because I have a personal story that has impacted my family in a big big way. … A lot of us have people in our lives that would prefer a different way for pain management. …I would ask the body to vote in support of this because there are people in our society who are going to be using it because they have legitimate reasons for it.”

Fitzwater, however, also brought up his mother who has dealt with multiple sclerosis his entire life. He said that while he doubted she would ever use medical marijuana because of the stigma attached to it, he would prefer for her to have the option to use it if that’s what she and her doctor decided was best for her.

Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, D-Kansas City, said he thought the amendment process sullied the bill.

“We had a bill six amendments ago that was barely palatable and now we’ve put this into a position where the only people that can get access to it are people that are ready to die,” LaFaver said. “Not only are we going to say that these are the folks that only are on death’s door, but then we are going to make a new class of felony for people that are about to die.”

But Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, brought up the looming specter of initiative petitions currently being circulated that would add medical marijuana to the ballot in the fall.80 Colona

“There’s some whactavists who care about two things: legalization and money,” he said to a silent chamber. “Guess what they’re doing: they’re running an initiative petition that bypasses it. And guess what their argument is? ‘The [General Assembly] has abdicated their responsibility on this.’ [LaFaver] is right. I don’t like the way the bill looks now.

“[But] a no vote on this kills the bill. We’re done. And then maybe the whactavists do collect all their signatures. And if you put it on the ballot it’s going to pass. And if you put it on the ballot, we have no control over some of the [regulations].”

After the debate, and emotional Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, closed the debate by talking about his father, who died of bone cancer.

“It was a very painful disease, bone cancer. He was on so much morphine his last 2 months that he literally saw martians walking on the hospital ceiling,” Hinson said. “He was a VA patient. The VA is able to prescribe medical marijuana. He denied it because it was against the law in this state. So why don’t we stand up, forget the politics, and do what’s right for this state.”