JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Last week, the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations flocked to Jefferson City for their lobby days to advocate for those who have fought in foreign wars. While MAVO noted but did not take sides, on several bills of interest in their itinerary, from issues as wide-ranging as Rep. Holly Rehder’s prescription drug monitoring program to the Rep. Kevin Corlew’s REAL ID bill, it has come out strongly in favor of Rep. Jim Neely’s HB 437.
HB 437 would allow people suffering from certain debilitating conditions to have access to medical cannabis. Those conditions include intractable epilepsy or “an irreversibly debilitating disease or condition,” which broadly could include many illnesses that affect veterans like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even clinical depression.
In a The Missouri Times article last month, Neely said his bill was necessary to support those most in needs.
“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.”
MAVO Chairman Tom Mundell said while many individual veterans organizations would not speak out against federal regulations prohibiting marijuana, MAVO supported an initiative that had the potential to save the lives of veterans.
“We definitely support medical cannabis,” Mundell said. “We feel that it’s an alternative, an option that should be available especially due to the phenomenal amount of research that has been done on this subject in the past few years.”
Mundell speaks not solely as a medical marijuana advocate, but as a product of America’s military. He served in the Army during the Vietnam War and earned multiple accolades for his service, including the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. He later served in a number of capacities for veterans in the state of Missouri, including as the Missouri State Commander for the VFW.
Mundell argues when pharmaceuticals prescribed by the Veterans’ Administration fail or are insufficient for care, veterans often turn to self-medication. Some find relief in medical cannabis, which is good enough for him to explore what benefits it may bring.
“It seems as though the people that do get to the THC and CBD medical cannabis oils, edibles tinctures, etc.,” Mundell said. “They find the ability to cope. I’m not saying they’re healed, but their minds are able to cope and they’re experiencing life again.”
Others have a like mindset. Frank Burroughs, the president of The Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs, lost his own daughter, Abigail, to head and neck cancer and lost a Supreme Court case in 2008 that denied a constitutional right to unapproved drugs for use by terminal patients.
“We applaud Rep. Neely’s compassionate efforts in the Missouri legislature,” Burroughs said. “There are FDA approved clinical trials underway to further test medical marijuana in various illnesses, but too many patients are left without access to those trials under our current laws.”
The General Assembly has attempted to pass legislation on medical marijuana repeatedly. Neely offered a similar bill last year, and former Rep. Dave Hinson had a bill last year aimed at legalizing medical cannabis in the state at a broader level.