JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, re-filed legislation this session that would legalize medical marijuana, a bill similar to one he attempted to pass last year.
HB 437 will allow doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to terminally ill patients and permit medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within the state.
“It’s something that we need to go ahead and pass,” Neely said. “There are some benefits we need to offer people if they’re terminal that will provide them a lot of comfort. We need to open up the doors to new opportunities and new ways of looking at things.”
Neely, a physician outside of his work in the General Assembly, has been a major advocate of unorthodox cures for dangerous diseases and sicknesses. His 2014 “Right to Try” Act allowed terminally ill patients the opportunity to use experimental drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. HB 437 would expand Neely’s 2014 bill to include medical marijuana to those experimental treatments.
Dozens of states around the nation now have similar laws regarding the use of marijuana or cannabis (interchangeable terms for the same plant) for medicinal purposes, and Missouri allows the use of cannabis oil to treat those who suffer from severe epilepsy. Neely’s bill is the latest attempt by Missouri lawmakers and outside groups to expand Missouri’s legal approach and citizen access to cannabis, which is still classified as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency alongside the likes of ecstasy, heroin, and LSD.
Missouri was on the precipice of deciding its future in the medical cannabis debate in 2016. However, an initiative petition that would have legalized medical marijuana in the state fell just short of the required number of petitions, and a bill by former Rep. Dave Hinson narrowly failed in the House near the end of the 2016 legislative session.
Advocates of marijuana reform have already thrown their support behind Neely’s bill, especially for its intention of providing clinical research on the drug’s medicinal properties.
Dr. Adie Poe, a neuroscientist who studies how cannabis can relieve chronic pain and decrease opioid use, said in a statement that research was “critically important.”
“Without this bill, there is no legal framework within which to study how cannabis fails or excels at improving people’s lives,” she said.