Is Missouri ready to legalize medical marijuana? Push by lawmakers, petitions is on

Rep. Jim Neely has seen firsthand how a terminal illness like cancer ravages the body.

His own daughter died from cancer three years ago. With a background in health care working as a physician and managing a hospice agency, Neely, R-Cameron, knows the importance of patients receiving comfort.

That’s why he’s sponsoring a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in a smokeless form for Missourians with terminal illnesses.

“It’s for people who are terminal to gain access for comfort,” Neely said. “This seems to me … as a good way to get started and seeing if there are some benefits.”

Critics of Neely’s bill come from all angles. Some say it goes too far and that any effort to legalize marijuana needs to come from the federal government.

Others say his bill is too restrictive and would help only a small swath of Missourians. Among them are three groups that aren’t waiting on lawmakers to make Missouri the 30th state to legalize medical marijuana and are pushing to put the issue before voters on November’s ballot.

The three initiative petitions gathering signatures all have the goal of legalizing medical marijuana, but they vary in their approach.

▪ A group called New Approach Missouri wants to place a 4 percent tax on the retail price of medical marijuana and put the revenue toward health care for veterans.

▪ Another group, Find the Cure, would charge a 15 percent sales tax on medical marijuana and use the revenue to fund a medical research institute run by an independent board.

▪ A third, Missourians for Patient Care, would create local licensing authorities that would have control over dispensary and distribution facilities — one per 100,000 population.

Brad Bradshaw, a Springfield lawyer and physician who drafted Find the Cure’s initiative petition, said Neely’s bill

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