Pubdate: Mon, 11 Feb 2008
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal (KS)
Copyright: 2008 The Topeka Capital-Journal
Author: James Carlson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Senate Health Committee To Discuss Medical Conditions As Defense

A Senate health committee will hear testimony today on  a bill that 
would allow certain medical conditions as a  defense against 
prosecution for marijuana possession.

Under the Kansas Medical Marijuana Act, people with a  debilitating 
disease could present to the judge a  "written certification" from 
their doctor attesting to  the relief marijuana provides.

"(This bill) doesn't legalize marijuana, it doesn't  decriminalize 
it," said Laura Green, director of Kansas  Compassionate Care 
Coalition. "It just allows a person  who has a serious debilitating 
medical condition who  gets arrested for marijuana to bring it up to a court."

Jon Hauxwell, a physician from Hays, will testify in  favor of the 
bill. He used to work on a reservation in  Montana where he dealt 
with substance abuse issues. He  said he understands the opposition 
to this bill, but he  added that the medical community has never 
allowed those who abuse a drug to deter doctors from  prescribing it 
to patients in need. He listed morphine  and Ritalin as other legally 
prescribed drugs to which  patients can get addicted.

"We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater,"  Hauxwell said.

Former Attorney General Robert Stephan, a cancer  survivor himself, 
also will testify in favor of the  bill. In August, he came out in 
favor of legalizing the  drug for medical use.

He said at the time he believes "the state should not  pre-empt the 
role of the physician when it comes to  deciding what is best for ill Kansans."

The legislation defines a debilitating condition as  "cancer, 
glaucoma, positive status for human  immunodeficiency virus, acquired 
immune deficiency  syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic" or any other 
condition that causes a host of debilitating symptoms.

Current law doesn't allow judges or juries to consider  a medical 
condition when prescribing punishment for  possession of the drug.

"You can't even mention it," Hauxwell said.

The bill faces an uphill battle in a state wary of  legislation that 
even smells like marijuana  legalization. Senate Health Care 
Strategies Committee  member Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, opposed 
the introduction of the bill. She said there was no way 
of  standardizing dosages of marijuana.

And committee chairwoman Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita,  who is in 
remission from stage four non-Hodgkin's  lymphoma and whose son 
survived leukemia, said in a  recent article about medical marijuana 
that there are  other drugs on the market that work.
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