By John Payne
Last Tuesday, April 8, the House General Laws held a hearing on H.B. 2238. The bill would allow the state's colleges and universities to grow strains of cannabis high in cannabidiol (CBD) and very low in THC. This cannabis could be used for research purposes but would also be used to create a CBD-rich oil to treat epilepsy that does not respond to "three or more treatment options."
The bill was introduced by Rep. Caleb Jones (R - Columbia) and is co-sponsored by leaders in both parties, including Speaker of the House Tim Jones (R - Eureka), Majority Leader John Diehl (R - Town and Country), and Minority Leader Jacob Hummel (D - Saint Louis). Although this bill would only apply to a relatively small group of patients, it's worth noting that House leaders on both sides of the aisle now publicly favor some kind of medical cannabis!
In his introduction of the bill, Representative Jones explained that he was moved to introduce the bill at the request of his friends Matt and Genny Jessee, whose daughter June suffers from near constant seizures. The Jessees are already in the process of moving to Colorado and simply hope that passage of this bill will allow them to move back home to Missouri sooner rather than later.
Parents, patients, and even some traditional opponents of cannabis law reform --- like Kerry Messer of the Missouri Family Network --- testified in favor of the bill.
The only doctor to testify was Dr. Gil Mobley, who applauded the legislators for taking this small step forward but also informed them that THC and CBD work together, so many patients will need far more THC than this bill allows.
During my testimony in favor of the bill, I noted that the emergency clause in the bill --- which means it will go into effect as soon as it is signed by the governor --- is an acknowledgement that the lack of medical cannabis in Missouri is a public health emergency. I agreed that designation was entirely appropriate but said it was also an emergency for many patients who would not be covered by this bill.
No one testified in opposition to the bill, but Ed Moses of ACT Missouri, a drug prevention and treatment group, testified for informational purposes, and it certainly sounded like he opposed the bill. Moses worked in law enforcement, primarily as a narcotics officer, for many years.
In his testimony, Moses likened the situation for parents whose children need medical cannabis to when he would arrive at a wreck and have to secure the scene before providing help to those injured in the wreck. He didn't come out and say it, but he strongly implied that in order to prevent drug use, some innocent people would have to die. It was one of the most galling speeches I've ever witnessed.
Thankfully, the committee did not put much stock in Moses' testimony as they approved the bill with a Do-Pass recommendation later that evening. The bill now awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives and --- presuming they pass it --- the state Senate.
This bill is far from perfect. Most of the people who can benefit from medical cannabis will not be covered by the bill, and even many of those who are require higher levels of THC than allowed under this proposal.
Still, it is a small step in the right direction for Missouri, and it would establish at least one government-approved use for medical cannabis in this state. More importantly, it can make a monumental --- even life-saving --- difference for the patients and families that it does cover.
And although this bill is limited, it still represents tremendous progress in a short time. Last year, Speaker Jones did not even assign the House medical bill to a committee until the last week of the session, and it never received a hearing. Now, the Speaker is a co-sponsor of a medical cannabis bill!
Help us continue that progress by making a contribution now, and we will reach our goal of providing medical cannabis for all patients who need it and fully legalizing cannabis for all adults.