Zayden Rayl was not expected to live past 2. Yet on Tuesday his mother, Heidi Rayl, sat in front of a House committee and flipped through pictures of her now 8-year-old son during emotional testimony in favor of a bill that would allow limited use of medical marijuana.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron provides access to the substance for people who suffer from terminal conditions. Rayl supports it even though it doesn’t loosen restrictions enough to help her son. His illness would not qualify.
Rayl’s son suffers from a rare genetic condition that causes chronic life-threatening seizures. His mother told the committee that the availability of cannabinoid oil, also known as CBD oil, changed her son’s life.
In 2014, House Bill 2238 afforded certain patients access to CBD oil. CBD, noted for its effectiveness in alleviating pain and epilepsy symptoms, is an active ingredient in marijuana. Unlike marijuana’s other active ingredient, THC, it does not produce the intoxicating effects commonly associated with recreational marijuana use.
Before Rayl’s ability to access CBD oil, her son had to be airlifted or transported by ambulance to a hospital several times a month.
After trying a variety of pharmaceuticals and special diets, “absolutely nothing worked,” Rayl said, “until the CBD bill got passed and he was able to try. Our lives have completely changed.
“Zayden has not been in a helicopter or an ambulance since his first dose of CBD oil,” Rayl said, choking back tears.
Woody Cozad, a lobbyist for the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, was the only person at the hearing who testified against the bill. Cozad said passing House Bill 1554, this year’s bill, would confuse prosecuting attorneys, given that if passed, Missouri state law would conflict with federal law.
Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Kansas City, said he couldn’t imagine why anybody would “want to make criminals out of any of the people we’ve heard testify today.”
Joshua Lee, a retired Missouri National Guardsman, Army veteran and the founder and executive director of Veterans Alliance for Compassionate Access, told the committee that while the bill is a step in the right direction, it is not inclusive enough, and that legislators should not succumb to the whims of the federal government.
“We are already used to defying the federal government,” Lee said. “This is Missouri. We’re the Show-Me State. What do a bunch of fat cats up in D.C. know about how to control our health?”
On Monday night, the Columbia City Council voted unanimously to approve Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp’s ordinance to support state legalization of medical marijuana. The initiative encouraged Columbia residents to join a petition drive that would put the matter on the November ballot.
Trapp, who worked as a counselor and director of Phoenix Health Programs, a substance abuse treatment center, believes that medical marijuana is effective in helping individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Several veterans spoke before the committee, expressing their desire for an expansion of the proposed legislation to include people who suffer from PTSD related to their military service.
Dustin Peters, a veteran of both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, moved from Mount Vernon to Pueblo, Colorado, to gain access to medical marijuana to treat his PTSD. “I drove here, 14 hours, to be here, to talk to you for three minutes,” Peters told the committee.
Peters explained that marijuana provides relief for many veterans suffering from PTSD, chronic pain and sleep disorders, and that cannabis is a superior method of alleviating symptoms compared to opioids and other dangerous and highly addictive pharmaceutical drugs prescribed by doctors.
Kyle Kisner, also a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, told the committee about how the opioids and benzodiazepines doctors prescribed him drove him to attempt suicide on two separate occasions.
“I needed to address a larger issue, and that is when I began to illegally treat myself,” Kisner said.
Kisner said that since he began using cannabis instead of his prescribed medications, he has been able to hold down a job and is now working on two bachelor’s degrees. Kisner added that marijuana also helped him kick his addiction to pharmaceutical drugs.
“You guys ask if this is medicine. I say yes — absolutely this is medicine,” Kisner said. “I think opioid addiction is pretty terminal.”
House Bill 437, a previous bill sponsored by Neely, a retired physician who specialized in the end of life process, would have legalized access to medical marijuana for people suffering from “epilepsy or an irreversible debilitating disease or conditions.” The bill was voted out of the committee last year, but it did not go further.