Missouri lawmakers pass cannabis extract bill

Children with serious cases of epilepsy soon may be able to use oil from a hemp plant for treatment.

Lawmakers Thursday fast-tracked a bill allowing the use of CBD, or “cannabidiol,” oil as a treatment for “intractable epilepsy” — but only after at least three prescription medicines have been tried and failed to help treat the disease effectively.

The CBD oil treatments would be available only for people who have been given a registration card by a doctor who has seen other medicines tried unsucessfully.

The state Agriculture department would issue licenses, to no more than two non-profit groups, allowing the growth of special hemp plants with high levels of CBD and low levels of THC, the chemical that causes the “high” for marijuana users.

The licenses also would allow those growers to extract the oil so patients could use it.

Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California, introduced the bill in the House just over a month ago, on March 31.

The House passed it on April 24, and the Senate scheduled a hearing in the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee for this past Wednesday afternoon — just six days after the House sent the bill to the Senate.

Although it normally takes at least a week for a Senate committee to endorse a bill, Jones’ proposal won a unanimous “do-pass” recommendation right after Wednesday’s testimony on it.

And both the Senate and House passed the final version a day later.

It could be sent to Gov. Jay Nixon as early as Monday, and the governor said Thursday afternoon his staff will review the bill thoroughly.

“I’ve said all along, if there’s medicinal, doctor uses of these sorts of things — that the medical community says could assist folks — that I was certainly open to looking at that,” Nixon said.

The Senate passed the bill on a 32-0 vote.

There appeared to be several teary-eyed lawmakers, staff members and observers after state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, talked about his family’s experience with son Stephen’s lifelong battle with epilepsy and other illnesses.

Stephen, now 9, “had his first infantile spasm when he was around 11 months old; he had his first breakthrough seizure when he was 16 months,” Schmitt said.

The family’s doctors tried a variety of medicines, but never found relief.

At 2½, Stephen suffered a major seizure that lasted four hours and, even in an emergency room nothing could be done to stop them.

Although he hasn’t required an emergency room visit in several years, Stephen still has daily seizures, his father said.

“We were walking him to school Monday and we had to lay him on somebody’s front lawn, on his side, to make sure he was still breathing” during a seizure, Schmitt said. “There are thousands of families throughout the state that live with that fear.”

But the development of the CBD oil extract has created hope for the Schmitts and many other families whose efforts to treat and manage their children’s epilepsy have been unsuccessful.

Colorado law permits its use for families of epileptic children, where other treatments have failed — and several families from Missouri have moved to Colorado to get access to those treatments.

“The efficacy rate is extremely high,” Schmitt reported. “There are kids who were, literally, having hundreds of seizures every day — that are having none, now, because of the CBD oil.”

Jones watched the Senate’s 25-minute debate and unanimous votes, then was asking his House colleagues an hour later to accept the Senate’s changes and send the bill to Nixon.

But Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan — whose district includes parts of Osage and Gasconade counties in Mid-Missouri — told colleagues: “I would much rather have seen clinical testing through a university, or one of the hospitals that specializes in this medicine, in a controlled environment before we go down the path of opening this up.”

Because marijuana is a Schedule I drug, federal law won’t allow the hemp extract to be tested — even though its THC content is so low that there is no marijuana-like “high” from its use.

Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla and an orthopedic surgeon, told Schatz: “We should have clinical trials that are running through our epilepsy clinics in our major centers.

“But I’m of the opinion at this point, that we should go ahead and let these children avail themselves of these treatments.”

The House passed the bill, 136-12.

The measure has an emergency clause, so the law would go into effect as soon as Nixon signs the bill.

Earlier coverage:

By The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- 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.


Cannabis extract bill is HB2238

Online:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

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