JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri would follow Colorado in legalizing marijuana under a measure presented to a House committee Monday, March 10.
Bill sponsor, Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said the bill protects people possessing small amounts of marijuana from being prosecuted. He said it provides for substance regulation and taxation of 25 percent of retail value. Applying those numbers to current results in Colorado, Kelly said the measure would produce $100 million in tax revenue for the state.
"Tens of billions of dollars have been spent on enforcement of laws against marijuana, and it'd be difficult to prove we stopped one single person from smoking one single marijuana joint," Kelly said. "When the government is doing things so comprehensively wrong, and so expensively for such a long period of time, we should re-examine what they are doing."
Doctors and parents supported the bill as a means of providing medical treatment not available by other drugs.
Brandy Johnson's 10-year-old son Tres and Heidi Rayl's 4-year-old son Zayden both suffer from rare, life-threatening illnesses that cause constant, debilitating epileptic seizures. Both mothers testified that drugs and oils derived from the marijuana plant have improved their children's conditions when other surgeries and medicines did not.
With tears in her eyes, Johnson said: "People like me and people like my son don't have any other options. For Tres and others out there, this is our last hope."
Rayl also wept through her testimony: "I look at my son suffering and it breaks my heart that I can't fix it...I can't fix his boo-boo...but this God-given therapy can save lives."
Both Rayl and Johnson said they have seen a significant decrease in the number and intensity of their sons' seizures since they started using drugs and oils made from pot plants.
Dr. Gil Mobley said medical cannabis stops seizures, repairs neurons in MS patients, and produces powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Dr. Mobley also said marijuana is safer than alcohol.
"Nobody has ever died from a THC overdose," Mobley. "You can't say that about Tylenol, Advil or any other cold medicine on the drugstore aisle."
Opponents said marijuana is dangerously addictive and loosening marijuana laws has led to unexpected, unintended consequences in other states.
"Marijuana today is three times more potent than in the 1990s," said Sergeant Jason Greller, a police officer with more than 20 years experience and the president of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association. " This is marijuana that is bred to get you extremely high and is high in THC content."
Kansas City resident Laura Bruce is a Colorado native who said she will never move back to her home state.
"The county that I went to high school in has tripled the rates of marijuana use than the county that my husband teaches in here in Missouri," Bruce said.
Bruce also said 90 percent pure THC can be extracted from pot and be smoked in e-cigarettes. She said marijuana edibles in Colorado, such as pot brownies, lollipops and sodas are marketed to children.
"These are just devastating effects that I don't think we think about making money or generating taxes or giving law enforcement free time. We're talking about some things that are pretty scary."
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.