MMJ at the Capitol: Medical professionals lobbied for telehealth ban

MMJ at the Capitol: Medical professionals lobbied for telehealth ban


In the Missouri House on Wednesday, February 26, a Department of Health and Senior Services priority bill to create the statutory authority to perform federal background checks on medical marijuana facility employees was amended by Rep. Jon Patterson to include a ban on telehealth certifications.

The amendment is supported by the Missouri State Medical Association, a professional association of medical professionals with an active lobbying arm at the state’s Capitol.

“We believe the standard of care for the verification of a qualifying condition necessitates an in-person encounter,” Jeff Howell, government relations/legal counsel for the MSMA. “Otherwise, a valid physician-patient relationship does not exist, which is required for prescribing or recommending treatments.”

Patterson said on the floor that the Department had lobbied him for the amendment. The Department did not.

Constitutional conservatives Reps. Phil Christofanelli, Nick Schroer, and Ron Hicks, all from St. Charles County, all defended Article XIV of the constitution, which was approved by over two-thirds of Missouri voters in November 2018. The trio was joined by several Democrats in fighting the amendment.

“This is going to handcuff the rollout of this program,” Schroer told Greenway Magazine. “I hope the conservatives in the Senate see that this is not what Missourians wanted and allow the Department to roll this program out the way Missourians intended.”

This amendment was decried by industry and community leaders as oppressive to patients in rural areas or with debilitating conditions. The two factors limit access to certifying physicians.


“For over a decade Missouri legislators had an opportunity to act on creating a regulatory framework for medical marijuana in our state,” said Christofanelli. “Year after year, they failed to do so. Now medical marijuana is in our constitution. Legislative action inconsistent with Article XIV is beyond the power of the Legislature. All these proposal achieves is to put Missouri taxpayers on the hook for a lawsuit they are likely to lose.”

The amendment passed 89-56.

DHSS does not currently have a way to track the amount of telehealth-provided certifications. To Greenway’s knowledge, there have not been complaints regarding telehealth services. Telehealth offerings for medical consultations, in general, were approved only in recent years, by many of the same legislators who chose to limit telehealth for medical marijuana certifications.

The amendment ultimately passed and the bill was perfected, leaving one more vote before the chamber before the bill is sent to the Senate for consideration, as amended with the telehealth ban for certifications. The underlying bill was expected to be a consent bill, meaning it would be fast-tracked through the legislature without amendment.

Another amendment was debated, this one proposed by Rep. J. Eggleston, which would require all patients to possess a paper copy of their patient care card and the receipt of purchase for any medical marijuana in possession. This amendment was defeated.

Meanwhile, in the state senate, Senator Jill Schupp amended a bill to allow DHSS to dictate how edibles are manufactured. There is a bill originating in the Senate which would greatly limit marketing and packaging freedom for medical manufacturers.

HB 1896 is expected by members of the House to be voted on a third time on Monday, March 2. If passed, the bill would be sent to the Senate.