A State Proposal to Cremate Bodies the Jedi Way

The lone public open-air funeral pyre in the United States is in Crestone, Colorado, and is available for use only by county residents and landowners.

The lone public open-air funeral pyre in the United States is in Crestone, Colorado, and is available for use only by county residents and landowners. Associated Press

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Missouri lawmakers passed a bill that would legalize open-air human cremation, similar to Darth Vader's funeral.

Missouri could become the first state to legalize outdoor human cremation, pending the signature of a bill passed by the General Assembly earlier this year.

The bill, dubbed the “Jedi Disposal Act” by lawmakers in reference to Darth Vader’s funeral scene in Return of the Jedi, one of the Star Warmovies, passed both chambers of the state legislature with no vocal opposition. As written, the legislation would allow licensed funeral directors to perform outdoor cremations at licensed crematoriums under rules crafted by the state board of embalmers and funeral directors. If Gov. Mike Parson signs it, the law would take effect in August.

Sen. Jason Holsman, a Democrat, proposed the measure after researching open-air cremation and discovering it wasn’t legal in Missouri. Holsman told the Kansas City Star that his genealogy includes German and Viking ancestry, two of many cultures that historically embraced outdoor cremation.

“This has been around since the dawn of man. This is the way that our ancestors took care of their remains,” he said. “The Native Americans did it in trees. The Vikings did it in boats. Outdoor cremation has been around many cultures, forever. Keep in mind our ancestors—the Native Americans, the settlers—they didn’t have to get permits.”

The law would make Missouri the first state to legalize outdoor cremation and only the second place in the United States to allow the practice. The first, a concrete pyre in Crestone, Colorado, has been operational since 2008 but is available only to residents and landowners in Saguache County.

Because of the dearth of options for non-residents, Missouri’s bill “could end up spurring a cottage industry” should Parson sign it, Holsman said.

The bill follows the legalization of human composting in Washington state. That legislation, signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in May, allows bodies to decompose in reusable vessels filled with alfalfa, straw and wood chips, creating a rich soil.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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