Columbia councilman wants to see medical marijuana legalized

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COLUMBIA - Missouri could be next in line to legalize medical marijuana, if an initiative gets put on the 2018 ballot in November. 

The Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative would legalize marijuana for medical purposes and would allow state-licensed physicians to recommend marijuana to patients. 

Columbia City Councilman Michael Trapp held a press conference Monday in support of a resolution adding medical marijuana to the council's lobbying agenda ahead of Monday night’s city council meeting. Trapp believes this could be a potential solution to the national opioid epidemic.

According to data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 43 people died of opioid overdoses, including heroin, in Boone County from 2012-2016. In 2016, 908 Missourians died due to an opioid overdose. Data from 2017 was not readily available.

Trapp believes this resolution will have a similar or greater impact than the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. 

At the press conference, Trapp brought up medical marijuana and youth use. He said he hasn’t seen a risk of harm in Colorado for teens.

“Even if it did, the negative impacts of using cannabis are not fatal like the negative impacts of using opioids and the other earlier statistics I cited,” Trapp said. “Even if there was a documented youth increase, we would still want to pursue that for medical regime and I don’t see that in the facts.”   

According to a 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the committee said there is “evidence to suggest that initiating cannabis use at a younger age increases the likelihood of developing problem cannabis use.”   

The report also mentions there is “conclusive or substantial evidence” that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults, improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms and helps in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The report said there is limited evidence they are effective for improving anxiety symptoms, improving symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, increasing appetite and decreasing weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS. 

However, others feel differently about the issue. Joy Sweeney, executive director of the Missouri Council for Drug Free Youth, said more research needs to be conducted.

“We have not conducted sufficient research to determine that marijuana solves anything medicinally,” Sweeney said. “Guess what you won’t feel any pain if you go drink a few shots of alcohol either but do we call that medicine? No.” 

Sweeney said addiction is addiction no matter what drug is used. 

"There may be things in the plant that can help, but right now we don't know what they are, we don't know what doses to prescribe and we don't know how to administer it in a safe way to patients," Sweeney said. "And certainly smoking it is not the solution." 

City council will vote Monday night whether to support the legislation.

The Missouri House of Representatives will have a public hearing Tuesday morning on legislation supporting medical marijuana

(This story has been updated with more information.)