JEFFERSON CITY - The House voted in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana, provided it is only accessible to dying patients.
The debate on what is formally known as the "Missouri Compassionate Care Act" spurred emotions on the right and the left.
The bill sponsor, Rep. Dave Hinson, R- St. Clair, told the story of his father's passing due to bone cancer.
"[My father saw] martians walking on the hospital ceiling," Hinson said, referencing his dying father's reaction to the morphine he received in an attempt to relieve his pain.
Hinson's father was treated at a Veteran's Administration hospital, a facility which is licensed to provide patients in need with medical marijuana."In this state they can do it, he denied it. You know why? [Be]cause it's against the law in this state," Hinson said in regards to his father's refusal for medical marijuana.
Concerns regarding the safety of health care officials were also presented throughout the debate.
Rep. Tila Hubrecht, R- Dexter, said that as a hospice nurse she is uncomfortable will the bill.
"I have had my nursing bag gone through, my vehicle gone through, because patient family members thought I carried morphine. I'm just concerned that now a lot people are gonna think the nurses carry marijuana," Hubrecht said.
The debate heated up when Rep. Justin Hill, R- Lake St. Louis, introduced an amendment that would further criminalize the illegal sale of marijuana.
Rep. Bonnaye Mims, D- Jackson County, challenged Hill's intent regarding his amendment.
"Why are we still criminalizing marijuana?" Mims asked.
Mims said marijuana is already trafficked everywhere and said she is concerned about who would police the trafficking of marijuana if it became a Class D felony.
"Are we creating more jobs or penitentiaries?" Mims asked.
Hill assured Mims police would be the ones regulating the illegal trafficking of marijuana, to which Mims responded with, "Are you kidding me?"
"We have so many people in jail for a little bit of marijuana, we have people dying who need marijuana," Mims said.
Mims said she does not believe marijuana is something people need to be put in jail for.
"We're simply controlling the use of narcotics," Hill said.
Hill argued that someone selling pills is currently at risk of a felony charge, while someone selling marijuana faces only a misdemeanor.
"What's keeping someone from masking their illicit drugs as medicine," Hill asked.
By a vote of 87 to 62, Hill's amendment was adopted.
Hubrecht said she is not supportive of the use of medical marijuana, but if it is going to be legal she is most concerned about product safety.
Hubrecht proposed an amendment that would ensure the medical marijuana was safe and that the standards for it would be consistent with those for traditional medication; the amendment was adopted.
Rep. Shamed Dogan, R- St. Louis County, proposed an amendment that would change the parts of the bill that he said he feels target minorities.
Dogan's amendment removed the requirement that growers have $500,000 dollars in assets because he believes it would be "restricting this from people who do not have a tremendous amount of means."
"They should be allowed regardless of what their net worth is," Dogan said, but his amendment was not adopted.
Dogan said the entire bill creates barriers of entry that will negatively effect minorities.
Advocates of the bill argued that dying patients would be more alert if their pain was to be treated with medical marijuana as opposed to morphine.
"This is about end of life cancer patients," Rep. Jay Barnes, R- Jefferson City, said.
"Why don't we stand up, get the politics out of this room and do what's right for dying patients," Hinson pleaded with the body before voting opened.
At the close of the multi-hour hearing, the bill was given first-round approval by a 91-59, but requires one more House vote before going to the House.
A proposed ballot issue for which signatures are being sought to put the issue on the statewide ballot would legalize marijuana for medical conditions without a diagnosis of impending death.