JEFFERSON CITY — Lawmakers are afraid it might be too easy for patients to get medical marijuana certifications.
Citing banners offering quick certification for medical marijuana cards, House members gave initial approval to a bill that tightens up the process a bit and adds more checks and balances on those involved in the industry.
Representatives were talking about House Bill 1896, which would prohibit any state agency from sharing data about medical marijuana applicants to the federal government. Violating this would be a Class E felony under the bill.
The bill also requires criminal background checks for all employees and operators of medical marijuana facilities, whose data would be sent to the FBI for a federal background check.
Representatives discussed several amendments to the bill in Wednesday’s hearing. The longest discussion surrounded an amendment that would require medical marijuana applicants to meet with a Missouri physician in person to receive a certification.
Rep. Jonathan Patterson, R-Lee's Summit, presented the amendment, which also grants the Department of Health and Senior Services the ability to interview physicians regarding certifications.
"I think that strengthens the program," Patterson said. "Because if you are doing the certifications online, over the phone, then the strength of that certification is really diminished."
Missourians who already have a medical marijuana card would not need to reapply.
The amendment was passed by a vote of 86-59, but not before several representatives raised concerns.
Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis, said many of her constituents live near the Illinois border and visit physicians out of state.
The amendment was a "great disservice to our constituents who live, play, go to the doctor in other states besides Missouri," she said.
Other representatives expressed concern that the amendment would hurt rural Missourians who lack access to in-person health care.
"We've had ongoing conversations over the years about the importance of telehealth and expanding access to rural Missouri," Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said. Limiting this would "cut off access to what was constitutionally approved by the over 60% of the voters."
Kendrick proposed a separate amendment that would require employees involved in medical marijuana regulation within the Department of Health and Senior Services to disclose any "actual or perceived" conflicts of interest to the department. The amendment passed 103-41.
Other proposed amendments fell flat.
Rep. J. Eggleston, R-Maysville, introduced an amendment that would have required medical marijuana patients to keep with them a receipt ensuring that any marijuana was indeed from a prescription.
He said the bill could cut down on illegal drug trade, but opponents argued it was redundant, as patients would already have a medical marijuana card. The amendment failed 46-97.
Rep. Wiley Price, D-St. Louis, offered an amendment that would have prevented family court participants from being banned from using marijuana as a term of their court orders. It did not pass.