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Marijuana Lobbyists Push To Legalize Medical Marijuana

JEFFERSON CITY — Members of Show-Me Cannabis are hoping to persuade lawmakers to support legislation legalizing some marijuana use in Missouri. 

On Tuesday, the group, and dozens from around the state, roamed the capitol advocating for six bills the Senate and House will debate later this session.

John Payne, executive director of the group, said the bills are a sign that legalization is becoming more acceptable.

Credit Wikimedia Commons

“It’s advancing pretty rapidly and it’s evolving in a way we wouldn’t have expected just a few years ago,” Payne said. “When I first started coming down to Jeff City to lobby on this issue, it was just a few people. Legislators would cross to the other side of the hall not to talk to us.”

Judging by the numbers of people walking around the capitol wearing green “Show-Me Cannabis” stickers on Tuesday, that perception has changed.

Three of the bills, Senate Bill 395 and House bills 490 and 800, focus on the use of medical marijuana, something Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, said is gaining traction in the state.

“I would have told you six months ago the chances of passing a full blown medical cannabis bill in Missouri were around 20 percent. Now, I would put it closer to 50 percent,” Holsman said. “I think we’re 50 percent of the way there with educating the (legislators) on the differences between the highly regulated medical cannabis and the recreational side they envision that comes along with the stigma of ‘reefer madness.’”

Holsman’s bill, which would create the Compassionate Care Act, would provide access to marijuana products for those who qualify. Twenty-three states, including Washington D.C., currently have laws permitting some form of marijuana use. In drafting his “highly regulated” bill, Holsman said, they looked at what has worked and what hasn’t in other states and tried to create something that "can move the state forward" on marijuana legislation.

Much of the group's efforts Tuesday were to show legislators that people from around Missouri would support changes in marijuana laws. The group is also working on a ballot initiative in 2016 to allow Missourians to vote on full legalization of marijuana. As for this year’s legislative session, the group has high hopes something will get passed, said Amber Langston, deputy director of Show-Me Cannabis.

“The minds have changed on this issue all around the board,” Langston said. “If we can just convince the legislators that they have that political support from the ground, I think we can pass a lot."

Two other bills,HB 830andSB 255, would legalize the production of industrial hemp in the state.

The last bill, SB 386, would expand the use of CBD oil – a compound in cannabis with the medical benefits minus the high associated with marijuana. CBD was legalized last year for people with autism. This year’s bill, sponsored by staet Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis, would expand its use to include those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other diseases.

Follow Ray Howze on Twitter: @RayHowze

Copyright 2015 St. Louis Public Radio

Ray Howze