Missouri Republicans might pass a bill that would allow cannabidiol oil - a form of medical marijuana - for people with severe epilepsy, but the restrictions on it are so tight that marijuana reform advocates are not exactly thrilled.
The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Caleb Jones (R-Columbia), would allow people with severe epilepsy to use cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a cannabis extract. The oil has been growing in popularity among epileptics, many of whom are children, who experience multiple seizures per day. The medicine has been known to lessen the frequency and intensity of these seizures and does not contain any psychoactive properties.
Although a conservative Republican-backed bill for CBD oils is seen as a step forward for marijuana reform advocates, the severe restrictions on the bill will leave out many who want to use medical marijuana. Not only does the bill specify that only people with severe epilepsy can use CBD oil, but the oil itself has not been shown to help people with other illnesses, including appetite loss and nausea in cancer patients and people with multiple sclerosis, among others.
"[CBD oil] would help my son very much, but the sad thing is that for people who have Crohn's disease and who have digestive issues -- vaporizing is the best thing for them and they wouldn't have this option," Heidi Rayl told Daily RFT last week after testifying at a senate hearing about medical marijuana.
In addition, a patient must have unsuccessfully tried at least three other medications, a rare legislative mandate that essentially instructs a doctor on how to prescribe medication.
"We'd like to see it be able for the doctor to be less dictated to in how to prescribe it and not just people with certain illnesses," says John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis. "Stepping between a doctor and patient - that's not a good thing."
The CBD oil bill comes shortly after other conservative states have passed similar legislation. In Alabama, Gov. Robert Bently, a staunch conservative Republican, signed legislation that allowed a state university to conduct a study on CBD oil and allow patients to use the medicine. And in South Carolina, where patients prescribed CBD oil by a doctor will be legally allowed to possess it.
Each of these measures were proposed by Republican lawmakers who were influenced by the lobbying efforts of parents who pleaded to be able to use the medicine on their children and Missouri's bill is no different - last week, several parents testified at a senate hearing to ask the senate for passage of a medical marijuana bill.
Payne tells us that while it's a positive step forward and an indication that marijuana advocates are having some success in the more conservative parts of the country, these restrictive bills could possibly prevent more wide-reaching progress in the short-term.
"Anything that helps even just one person is a good thing and its a lot easier to start amending a law once it's already passed," Payne says, "But I think there are a few different motivations here and some people are worried that those supporting [CBD oil-only bills] are doing so to forestall or prevent broader reform."
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Other reform organizations, including the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, have voiced similar concerns over the past few weeks as these bills have been making their way through the legislative ranks around the country.
In Missouri, sen. Jason Holsman's medical marijuana bill is the preferred legislation for reform advocates, and it's possible that Jones' CBD oil-only could dampen the progress it has made over the last couple weeks.
"It could be indirectly affect because some will say 'We're done with medical marijuana for now,'" Payne says.
One positive about Jones' bill is that it's the least restrictive of other CBD oil measures because it allows in-state production at universities and prescription by private doctors. South Carolina's bill does not address how CBD oil will be produced and Alabama's legislation allows only one university to use the medicine on a select group for trial purposes.
The bill also has an emergency clause, which would allow it to go into effect almost immediately after passage.
Although marijuana reform advocates around the country have mixed feelings about CBD oil bills, even the passage of a restrictive CBD oil bill would mean that even some staunch conservative Republicans in the Missouri legislature are endorsing medical marijuana to some degree.
"You'd basically have the entire Republican Missouri leadership admitting that there are medicinal benefits to marijuana," Payne says.
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