Missouri could become the next state to allow the use of medical marijuana.
A new bill sponsored by Rep. Kate Meiners, D-Kansas City, proposed to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes. The bill states medical marijuana should be prescribed for a debilitating medical condition such as cancer, HIV, hepatitis C or Alzheimer's disease.
If passed, the legislation would outline a system for registration of patients using marijuana for medical purposes and would require the state Department of Health and Senior Services to keep a confidential list of all patients with access to the drug.
Rep. Robert Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, the lone Republican co-sponsoring the bill, supported the use of medical marijuana because it costs less than other forms of treatment and can be more effective.
"It's up to us to ensure that Missouri citizens don't get unfairly prosecuted for providing something that's greatly needed by our sickest patients," he said.
Schaaf, who was a medical professional for 25 years, said the primary use of medicinal marijuana is to relieve nausea caused by chemotherapy during cancer treatment.
"I can tell you that this would benefit a lot of people, but we really need to have very strict controls to ensure that it doesn't open the door to huge illegal use of the drug," Schaaf said.
Rep. Margo McNeil, D-St. Louis, decided to co-sponsor the bill because of a constituent who wanted her cancerous mother to have legal access to the plant that helped another relative in Colorado, a state that passed laws for the legal use of medical marijuana.
Although Missouri's bill has 16 co-sponsors, Schaaf said it wouldn't likely make it to committee, let alone pass into law. He said he is not in favor of the bill's language and many people don't understand the issue.
"I co-sponsored the bill in an effort to raise awareness and help educate the public," Schaaf said.
McNeil also said the bill will not pass this year. She said for it to succeed in the future, the support of medical groups, as well as a grassroots movement, would be needed.
"I think we need to have some discussion, and so having the bill out there and allowing people to at least be introduced to the idea is a good idea," she said.
MU National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a campus organization that advocates marijuana policy reform, also supports the measure.
"Passage of this bill would finally allow doctors the choice to recommend this safe drug to their patients," President Kellie Smith said. "We believe that doctors should prescribe medicine, not politicians."
That is an important issue people should be educated about and aware of, she said.
"The important thing is that we are making progress, we are keeping the argument alive, and letting people know that marijuana has medicinal value," Smith said.