Marijuana is weighed and packaged for sale at a Seattle medical marijuana dispensary in this 2012 image. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Feb 24, 2015
St Louis Today - JEFFERSON CITY • Advocates for increased patient access to medical marijuana, including television personality Montel Williams, shared personal stories while testifying for a Missouri bill that would create a state-monitored distribution program for the drug.
Williams and others spoke at a House committee hearing Monday in support of the measure sponsored by a Republican representative. The measure would set up a process for patients to register for access to marijuana for cancer, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical conditions.
Williams, who starred in the syndicated talk show "The Montel Williams Show," has multiple sclerosis and uses marijuana to treat some of his symptoms. He lives in New York
and has advocated for medical marijuana across the country. He said the legislation could be a model for the rest of the country.
"I could care less about anybody who wants to get high— your problem, not mine. I'm only concerned about people who need relief through medication," Williams said to the committee.
Republican Rep. Dave Hinson's bill would not allow recreational use of marijuana. It would require growers and distributors of medical marijuana to be licensed and follow certain security procedures. The legislation also limits the amount of marijuana a person could get without special permission to 2.5 ounces every two weeks.
Hinson said every lawmaker has had their lives touched by someone who has been affected by a debilitating illness. He said his father, who died from bone cancer in 1989, suffered extreme pain in the final months of his life.
"He was so endowed with morphine that he was so sick to his stomach and all he wished to do was die," Hinson said.
Hinson said that people should be allowed the opportunity to get relief and maintain their dignity by using marijuana recommended by a doctor.
Some advocates for patient access to marijuana expressed concerns about the limits on home growing of cannabis and the high cost of setting up centers under the current legislation. Tom Mundell, a past commander of Missouri's Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he thought patients should be allowed to grow the plants at home.
He shared stories of veterans who were using marijuana for medical purposes. After Rep. Ron Hicks, R-St. Peters, asked him about using marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder, he broke down as he described how he's gone from taking dozens of pills daily to only a few each day.
Hicks said he supports the bill and wants to make sure it can pass.
A patient would have to get a recommendation from a physician and then apply to the state's health department before being able to purchase medical marijuana. The bill lists specific eligible ailments, but also lays out a process for a patient to appeal and the department to add illnesses.
But the risk for abuse of marijuana remains
despite the limits in the bill, said Jason Grellner, vice president of National Narcotics Officers Associations' Coalition, who opposes the measure.
Grellner said that supporters of marijuana access will chip away at any law passed in Missouri by filing lawsuits to expand it.
"Every legislator that brings this forward, I don't care what state you're in, believes they've built the perfect mouse trap," he said Monday before testifying. "There are so many unanswered questions and loopholes and pitfalls. You can't write a law tight enough."
Twenty-three states have comprehensive medical marijuana laws. Missouri
and 10 other states have also approved more limited medical marijuana bills that loosen access to extracts from strains of marijuana with low tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, which some have used to control epilepsy in young children.
Missouri's bill has not yet been fully implemented and the CBD oil is not currently available in the state.