The Missouri Senate gave initial approval to a bill to legalize medical marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses on Tuesday.
The bill, which cleared the House earlier last week by a vote of 112-44, was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Pensions by President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R) on a second reading. If approved there, the proposal would go back to the full Senate for a third reading vote and then potentially to the desk of Gov. Eric Greitens (R).
The bill as it currently reads would permit patients suffering from a serious illnesses such as cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to obtain “smokeless” medical cannabis. It was introduced by Rep. Jim Neely (R), a physician.
Political Dynamics Could Push Medical Cannabis To Passage
Missouri is a red state where 56 percent of the vote in the 2016 presidential election went to Donald Trump. Supporters of the bill are working hard to reinforce the idea that medical marijuana legalization is a part of the Trump agenda. Neely himself cited the president’s “leadership” on the issue as debate closed in the House last week.
During his presidential campaign, Trump said that he supports medical marijuana “100 percent.” And earlier this month, the president reportedly struck a deal with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), pledging to support efforts to protect states that have legalized marijuana from federal interference.
Passing a legalization measure in the Republican-majority Senate could deliver party members a political win, as there are three competing ballot initiatives to legalize medical cannabis that could qualify for the November ballot. All three campaigns submitted signatures to qualify their respective measures over the weekend.
Because Democrats generally support marijuana reform at higher rates than Republicans, it’s believed that having a legalization initiative on the ballot drives some Democratic turnout. That could pose a problem for Missouri Republicans in November if this current bill fails to pass, as it’s likely that at least one of the proposed initiatives to legalize will appear on the state ballot.
With the legislative session in Missouri ending later this month, however, the pressure is on to get the bill through committee and back to the full Senate in a timely manner. Any hold-up in committee or filibuster could jeopardize legislation’s chances of reaching Greitens’s desk this session.