At the same time Columbia voters are being asked to decide on a proposition
that would soften the city's marijuana laws, Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson,
D-Columbia, has signed on to a bill that would legalize marijuana for
medicinal use.

Wilson, a longtime proponent of allowing people to use marijuana for
symptoms related to diseases such as cancer and HIV, said House Bill 644
would help keep people from suffering unduly.

"For some people this appears to be the best treatment," Wilson said. "I
think it's an important issue to raise."

But Wilson agrees with the bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Vicki Walker,
D-Kansas City, in that the bill won't likely get very far in a
Republican-controlled House.

"This is not going to go anywhere - not in this legislature," Walker said.
"I'm sure it's not even going to get a hearing, but we're setting the
groundwork for the future this year."

Walker said her father died of cancer, and near the end of his life, his
esophagus was destroyed.

"I think having an alternative like marijuana would have eased his pain a
bit," she said. Walker said she was asked to write the bill by Dan Viets, a
local marijuana activist and attorney who helped advise a student who wrote
Proposition 1, which goes before Columbia voters April 8.

Opponents of medicinal marijuana, such as Capt. Chris Ricks with the
Missouri Highway Patrol, call House Bill 644 a "bill with no substance."
"There are plenty of prescription medicines in our state that will go after
the same thing people say they want with medicinal marijuana," Ricks said.
"In places where they have legalized this, like California, the abuse of it
is unbelievable. This slaps in the face of what the highway patrol has
stood for for years, if you want my personal opinion."

Greg Monaghan, a local oncologist with Missouri Cancer Associates, also
said he would be wary of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.

He said that he already can prescribe a pill form of THC to his patients
called Marinol.

"I think there is some quality control issues with marijuana," he said. "If
you tell someone they can smoke a joint, there is no quality control. I
also think there's some distribution issues."

The House bill would address some distribution issues because it would
allow an organization that has registered with the Department of Health and
Senior Services to lawfully sell, administer, deliver or possess marijuana
or related supplies for medical use.

Proposition 1 would legalize medicinal use of marijuana and decriminalize
small amounts of it. Wilson did not take a stand on the proposition, but
she said that she believes passing something statewide would be preferable
because Proposition 1 would just allow Columbia residents to legally obtain
and use the drug.

The state marijuana bill would allow patients to possess several ounces of
the drug, which is currently considered a felony offense. The local
initiative would only allow seriously ill people to possess up to 35 grams
of marijuana, a quantity recognized by the state as a misdemeanor amount.

The bill also calls for the creation of an identification card system, in
which a card must be applied for before a patient can obtain marijuana.

In 1997, Wilson introduced legislation that would allow defendants accused
of marijuana possession to use medical necessity as a defense. The bill was
not approved.

Pubdate: Mon, 17 Mar 2003
Source: Columbia Daily Tribune (MO)
Copyright: 2003 Columbia Daily Tribune