The Missouri House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to legalize smokeless medical marijuana for some uses.
House Bill 1554 now moves on to the state Senate.
The measure would expand on a law that allows use of hemp extract to treat intractable epilepsy — a seizure disorder that does not respond to medications — and allow medical marijuana use for cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, colitis, Alzheimer's disease and muscular dystrophy.
The measure would require people seeking medical marijuana to obtain medical cannabis registration cards from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
The cards would be available to any Missouri resident 18 years old or older who can provide a statement signed by a doctor stating the individual suffers from a debilitating disease and may benefit from the treatment, as well as the individual has considered all other treatment options currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Parents of minor children suffering from terminal illnesses can obtain the cards on their children's behalf.
Cards would be valid for a year.
The department could add other diseases to the list, provided it receives a petition signed by at least 10 physicians requesting the addition.
The law would require any physician who signs a statement for a patient to obtain a medical cannabis registration card to keep a record of the patient's evaluation and observations of the patient, including response to the cannabis, and share the record with the department. The department would maintain a database of the records and share them with higher education institutions for marijuana study.
The marijuana must be in a smokeless form. An individual with a card is only allowed to possess 20 ounces of the cannabis.
During debate on the House floor, state Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, warned that other states that have adopted medical marijuana bills have seen increases in recreational use of the drug.
"The use among 12- to 17-year-olds goes up substantially," Frederick said.
Another study shows the same age group is prone to substantial physical changes to the part of the brain associated with long-term memory.
"Even though we have real empathy for the folks who may be in hospice," he said, "what happens actually is kids in those states have increased access to it and increased use of it."
Officials said health care professionals will have to work with patients to determine what method of drug distribution would work best for the patients. They have oral, solid or liquid options, they said.
The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, a physician who has worked with patients in hospice care, spoke about his daughter dying of cancer several years. He said the measure was intended for terminal patients.
Marijuana has been legalized for medicinal use in some form in 29 states and the District of Columbia. It is legal for recreational use in nine.
Neely's is one of at least five bills the Missouri Legislature is considering that would legalize marijuana use. Meanwhile, 19 petitions are circulating in the state, seeking signatures to put marijuana legalization on a ballot.
"If we don't take action, voters of this state may very well take the decision out of the hands of the politicians and put it in the hands of the voters," Neely said.
Legislative researchers estimated Missouri could bring in almost $5 million a year by 2021 through taxing what could become a $115 million-a-year industry, the Associated Press reported.
The House approved the bill on a 112-44 vote. It now moves to the Senate. There is no timeline yet for when it might be considered there. The regular legislative session ends May 18.
The Associated Press contributed information used in this article.