Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jan 2012
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal (KS)
Copyright: 2012 The Topeka Capital-Journal
Author: Andy Marso


After an hour-and-a-half of testimony in which medical marijuana was
alternately painted as a pain-killing panacea and a youth-destroying
gateway drug, Rep. Ed Trimmer had one simple request: a little more

"Do we have any evidence on either side from sources like the National
Cancer Institute, the American Medical Association, the New England
Journal of Medicine, the American Opthamological Association Journal?"
Trimmer asked. "... I would hope that we have something in the medical
profession that tells us whether these things work or not. I like to
base policy on sound research."

The request from Trimmer, D-Winfield, came near the end of a House
Health and Human Services Committee hearing that was packed with
people, emotion and rhetoric, but short on scientific citations.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, that would legalize
marijuana for medicinal use drew a throng of supporters to the Docking
building. Nearly a dozen spoke in favor of the bill, many saying they
were testifying before a legislative committee for the first time.

But the committee also heard testimony against the bill from a doctor
and two addiction specialists. After the hearing chairwoman Brenda
Landwehr, R-Wichita, said she wasn't sold on the health benefits of
pot, especially for cancer patients.

"I think that, if there was a huge benefit for those folks, the FDA
would have already stepped in," Landwehr said.

Finney, who testified for the bill Tuesday, said that standard might
be tough to reach while the substance remains illegal at the federal

"For one, everybody seems to be basing everything on FDA approval,"
Finney said. "It's not FDA approved, as I guess that is the premium or
the coup de grace. If that's the standards, nobody's going to meet the

Other states, like California and Colorado, have passed their own
medical marijuana laws in defiance of the federal ban.

Depending on whose testimony one listened to Tuesday, those states are
either awash in new revenue from a tightly-regulated wonder drug, or a
Wild West with more pot dispensaries than Starbucks getting kids high
on candy-themed cannabis.

Eric Voth, a doctor and the chairman of the Institute on Global Drug
Policy, said marijuana prescriptions in California are dispensed with
"a wink and a nod" and more prescriptions are filled on Friday
afternoons by those under 25 than at any other time by any other group.

"It's a scam, it's not a prescription," Voth said.

Voth also said much of Oregon had to halt pre-employment drug
screenings after medical marijuana because "they had no usable workforce."

But Voth and the two others who spoke out against the bill were
outnumbered by a pro-pot contingent that included a family physician,
a former police detective, a firefighter and several others who touted
marijuana as the best source of relief for themselves or their loved

Several of them pointed out that the FDA has approved a number of
prescription drugs with potentially fatal side effects, while, as one
of them put it, "it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana
to induce death."

Wichita resident Esau Freeman got choked up as he read a two-page list
of side effects for the prescription arthritis drug Humera, which he
said caused his mother's death.

"I didn't come here to complain about the doctors, or to ask you to go
after the makers of Humera," Freeman said. "I'm here to ask you if we
can do better. If patients in Kansas deserve the legal right to access
safe and more natural medicine. I'm asking you as responsible and
caring legislators of this great state of Kansas to investigate the
evidence of medical marijuana with an unbiased and open mind."

Jon Hauxwell, the physician from Hays who testified for the bill, said
he was confident his camp could win on the science and he would be
sending some studies to Trimmer via email.

Finney was less certain.

"I don't think either side can win on the science, to be quite
honest," she said. "But we're gonna try."
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