Pubdate: Sun, 20 Jan 2013
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal (KS)
Copyright: 2013 The Topeka Capital-Journal
Author: Tim Carpenter


Haley Seeks to Make Kansas 19th State to Join Pot Club

There isn't much Capitol buzz in support of Kansas taking part in the
medicinal marijuana craze.

Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., introduced a bill
that would allow Kansas to join 18 states and the District of Columbia
in granting permission for qualified patients to consume pot with
endorsement of a physician and without fear of arrest.

Haley, who said he was no fan of recreational marijuana consumption,
can rattle off a series of public policy advantages of the THC-laced
plant, but the chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee
intends to use her influence to snuff out the bill that allows
patients to possess up to six ounces of pot and grow up to a dozen pot
plants in their residence.

The bill assigns regulation and licensing of medical marijuana
"compassion centers" supplying the substance to the Kansas Department
of Health and Environment.

"I don't think the Legislature would be for it. We have a very limited
session. You have to look at the opportunity costs," said Sen. Mary
Pilcher-Cook, the Republican chair of the panel.

Translation: No hearing on Senate Bill 9 during the 2013 session.

The news will be cheered by those who view marijuana as a plague
deeply damaging to Americans and condemned by folks who spend their
days praising efficacy of weed for a variety of debilitating medical

Haley said he would remain dedicated to the cause. He has been
disappointed before, as similar proposals brought forward by Democrats
and Republicans, including former Kansas Attorney Robert Stephan,
failed to gain traction in the Statehouse.

"I don't understand the opposition. Kansas is a conservative state,
but this is not a conservative or liberal issue," Haley said. "This is
a public safety issue. Many of the opioids and other narcotics these
patients take now carry serious side effects and cause thousands over
accidental overdose deaths every year. Why criminalize it for people
who are just wanting the medicinal value of marijuana?"

He said marijuana, like any medication, wasn't harmless, but side
effects were milder and didn't pose a fatal overdose threat.

Under current Kansas law, anyone obtaining marijuana on the black
market to treat a health condition could be placed in jail for one
year and fined $2,500 for a first-offense conviction for possession.
Subsequent convictions for the same infraction could be punishable by
three years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Personal cultivation of a marijuana plant is a felony in Kansas
carrying a maximum penalty of up to 17 years in prison.

Dan Riffle, legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project in
Washington, D.C., said seriously ill Kansans should be allowed to
treat their conditions and improve the quality of their lives without
fear of arrest and incarceration.

"They should be able to obtain it safely and legally without having to
resort to illegal drug dealers in an underground market," Riffle said.

Topeka physician Eric Voth, who is chairman of the Institute on Global
Drug Policy and a critic of medical and recreational marijuana
consumption, said the political arena wasn't the appropriate venue to
decide medical questions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should
determine the way medicines are brought to the market, he said.

In addition, the doctor said, side effects of the major active
ingredient of marijuana - THC - shouldn't be trivialized. Marijuana
impairs a person's ability to drive, intensifies manic depression and
leads to use of other dangerous drugs, Voth said.

The medicinal marijuana movement is a smoke screen of authorization
for recreational use, he said.

"They are very public about it," Voth said. "That has to be separated
from the medicine. And, it's just not the great cure-all for anything."

In the House, the top Republican and Democrat agreed the medical
marijuana movement hadn't yet arrived in Kansas.

"I think there are some very valid arguments to be made that we should
take a look at the medical marijuana issue," said House Minority
Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence. "I don't see Kansas going much farther
than that. Legalization of marijuana is not something the public is
clamoring for."

House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, chuckled when asked about the
issue, but made it clear the policy question wasn't at the forefront
of his mind.

"I heard yesterday that's floating around out there," Merrick said. "I
don't know if we'll get to it." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D