Pubdate: Mon, 26 Mar 2018
Source: Kansas City Star (MO)
Copyright: 2018 The Kansas City Star
Author: Andy Marso


The Kansas House of Representatives rejected medical marijuana
legalization Monday.

But the closeness of the 54-69 vote and the hour of emotional
testimony that preceded it made advocates more confident that Kansas
is now closer to joining the 30 states that allow marijuana by

"Today was the most legislative discussion we have ever had in three
years of the Kansas Safe Access Act," said Lisa Sublett, the founder
and president of Bleeding Kansas Advocates.

Sublett noted the bipartisan nature of the vote on the medical
marijuana amendment, which came up during debate on a bill to update
the state's controlled substances listings.

Rep. Cindy Holscher, a Democrat from Olathe, introduced the amendment.
She said her daughter has rheumatoid arthritis and she read off a list
of serious side effects of the medication she takes for it,

Holscher asked the other House members why parents facing the prospect
of giving that to their children shouldn't also be able to try medical

Rep. Linda Gallagher, a Republican from Lenexa, said she supported the
amendment because of a constituent, Christine Gordon, who wants to try
medical marijuana to quell the persistent seizures suffered by her
6-year-old daughter, Autumn.

Gallagher said Gordon's family is planning to move to Colorado next
year because they can't try it in Kansas.

"They're out of hope," Gallagher said. "They're out of time."

Rep. Abraham Rafie, a Republican from Overland Park who is also a
radiologist, said he was voting against Holscher's amendment because
the science behind medical marijuana is mixed.

Rafie said there's evidence that marijuana could be effective in
treating nausea and pain and possibly preventing seizures. But he said
that has to be balanced against studies that show public health
problems in states that legalized. He specifically mentioned increased
youth use and marijuana-related car accidents in Colorado, which also
allows for recreational use.

Ultimately, he said, more study is needed.

"There's a lot of motivated reasoning here," Rafie said. "There's a
lot of motivation to find what each side wants to see in the data. ...
This policy is very premature."

Rep. John Wheeler, a Republican from Garden City, said he couldn't
vote for the 116-page amendment because the House hadn't had time to
vet it and he feared it "could open the door to absolute chaos on the
streets of Kansas."

In other states, Wheeler said, legalizing marijuana for medical use
was just a pretext for allowing widespread use by people who don't
have medical problems.

Many House members who spoke against the amendment said they were
sympathetic to medical marijuana advocates, but shared Wheeler's
concerns about approving it as a floor amendment, rather than a bill
vetted through committee hearings.

Rep. Troy Waymaster, a Republican from Bunker Hill, got choked up as
he talked about a friend who went to Colorado before she died for
marijuana to treat pain caused by ovarian cancer.

"I know there is a benefit to it. I've seen it," Waymaster said. "...
I've said that in honor of her, I would support medical marijuana. But
it needs to be done the right way."

Legalization advocates said they pursued the amendment because House
leaders have shut them out of the committee process for years.

Monday's floor debate did leave the door open to one very restricted
form of medical marijuana this year.

After rejecting Holscher's amendment, House members gave preliminary
approval to a bill includes a provision to legalize products made with
a cannabis extract called cannabidiol, or CBD, as long as they contain
no tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the ingredient in marijuana that
produces the "high" that recreational users crave.

Shops across the state had already been selling those products until
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt released an opinion earlier this
year stating that doing so was against state law.

The House will likely take a final vote on that bill Tuesday. It needs
Senate approval to become law.
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