JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP/KSDK) - Missouri lawmakers have given final approval to a bill that would allow use of a cannabis extract by people whose epilepsy isn't relieved by other treatments.
On Thursday, the Senate passed the bill 32-0. House members later approved it 136-12, which sends the legislation to Gov. Jay Nixon.
The bill would allow use of "hemp extract" containing little of the substance that makes marijuana users feel high and greater amounts of a chemical called cannabidiol, or CBD.
Senators approved the measure after Sen. Eric Schmitt gave an impassioned speech about his son, who has epilepsy. Schmitt says he doesn't know if CBD oil will work but that a lot of families are willing to try. Schmitt's family watched the debate from the Senate chamber.
NewsChannel 5 spoke with a man who illegally smokes pot to treat his epilepsy. He says he grew up on medications that forced him to take several pills a day and for him had unbearable side effects, so, about 10 years ago he started smoking marijuana when he feels stressed.
Since he started doing that, he's only had three seizures. When his disease was at its worst, he was having four to five seizures a month. He says marijuana has allowed him to hold a full-time job and to drive, which he says he would otherwise not be able to do for fear of hurting himself or someone else. So, he says the risk of being caught with an illegal substance is worth it for him.
"There's always consequences for everything you do, you have to decide whether to take it. I choose to take this to keep myself safe and keep everyone else safe," he said.
Opponents to the bill say Missouri is not yet ready for this law, as more research needs to be done on the effects of the drug. We also wanted to know whether the bill opens the door for more widespread legalization of marijuana in Missouri.
"I don't think the bill writers were trying to open a door to anything, they were closing a door on epilepsy. But I'm afraid what they have done is possibly open a door that we don't know what's behind when it comes to what this drug can do in the longterm," said Missouri Narcotics Officers Association President Jason Grellner.
But, marijuana supports say the law could get more people on their side.
"The plant is not the evil thing that a lot of people believe it to be. So maybe they'll start to think we shouldn't prohibit it at all," said Show Me Cannabis Executive Director John Payne.
Show Me Cannabis recently did an extensive telephone poll to decide whether to try to get a legalization measure on the November ballot. The organization says it doesn't think it has the votes this year, but is confident about a ballot measure in 2016.
Cannabis extract bill is HB2238
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