The peaceful plains of Kansas wouldn’t seem to be fertile ground for medical marijuana.
After all, Kansas was the first to embrace Prohibition, and one of the last to end it. Even today, you can’t find full-strength beer on a grocery store shelf.
Yet in the same week that state lawmakers voted to make Kansas the first state to outlaw a synthetic form of pot, a Wichita legislator introduced a bill to legalize marijuana with a doctor’s prescription.
“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” said Rep. Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat.
Finney has lupus, which she said makes her sympathetic to those with chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s, cancer and HIV.
Finney’s bill would set up state-registered “compassionate care centers,” where those with prescriptions could buy marijuana for the treatment of pain or debilitating illnesses. Finney’s bill also would require the marijuana be grown in the Sunflower State.
Fourteen states already legalize medical marijuana in some fashion, including Kansas’ neighbor Colorado. Medical marijuana bills have been introduced in several other states, including Missouri.
But Kansas? The state that made Carry Nation and her hatchet famous?
Indeed, many lawmakers said they’re not convinced there’s a need.
“Let’s be honest, this would be an attempt to legalize marijuana,” said Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican. “It has no benefit for pain management. All it does is make you crave another bag of chips.”
Kansas lawmakers are more apt to outlaw a drug than legalize it. In the past five years, lawmakers voted to criminalize salvia divinorum and jimson weed. This year they’re targeting synthetic cannibinoids, lab-produced chemicals that mimic the effect of marijuana and are sold as incense.
“It’s a lot easier to outlaw (a drug) than it is to get one legalized,” said Rep. Rob Olson, the Olathe Republican who sponsored the House bill outlawing synthetic marijuana. The bill passed a final House vote on Wednesday.
But Finney suspects the times may be a changing. She said several lawmakers have quietly endorsed her idea.
“Everybody said ‘oh, it’s a good idea, but I don’t want to touch it,’ ” she said.
That confirms the suspicion of Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Stroup said NORML’s studies show that 80 percent of Americans favor medical marijuana.
“Even in Midwestern states like Kansas, where the politics can be conservative, people support this,” he said. “We’ve largely won the hearts and minds of the American public, but we haven’t yet figured out fully how to translate that into public policy.”
Bob Stephan, former Kansas attorney general, has advocated for medical marijuana for years. He endured years of chemotherapy in the ‘70s and said fellow patients found that marijuana worked wonders on the pain and nausea.
Stephan predicts Kansas will someday legalize medical marijuana — but only after lawmakers realize it won’t hurt them politically.
“For some reason marijuana just drives people up the wall,” he said. “It’s OK to have morphine and every drug known to man — some with just awful side effects. But not marijuana.”
A legislative hearing for Finney’s bill hasn’t been scheduled. Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican and chairwoman of the House health committee, said she opposes medical marijuana. But she’s open to holding hearings.
“If we have time,” Landwehr said.
By DAVID KLEPPER
February 3, 2010
chillinwill added 798 Minutes and 59 Seconds later...
Bill introduced to legalize marijuana in Kansas
A Kansas legislator has introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana for people suffering from chronic illnesses who have a doctor's prescription for the drug.
Rep. Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat, introduced a bill that would set up state-registered "compassionate care centers" where people with prescriptions could buy marijuana.
Supporters of medical marijuana says it helps ease pain from chronic diseases.
"I just think it's the right thing to do," said Finney, who says her lupus makes her sympathetic toward those with diseases such as Parkinson's, cancer and HIV.
But Rep. Scoot Schwab, a Republican from Olathe, opposes the plan.
"Let's be honest, this would be an attempt to legalize marijuana," Schwab said Wednesday. "It has no benefit for pain management. All it does is make you crave another bag of chips."
The bill was introduced the same week that lawmakers voted to make Kansas the first state to outlaw a synthetic form of pot, known as K2.
But Finney said several lawmakers have told her they support legalizing medical marijuana.
"Everybody said 'oh, it's a good idea, but I don't want to touch it,'" she said.
Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said his group's studies have found that 80 percent of Americans favor medical marijuana.
"Even in Midwestern states like Kansas, where the politics can be conservative, people support this," he said. "We've largely won the hearts and minds of the American public, but we haven't yet figured out fully how to translate that into public policy."
Former Kansas Attorney General Bob Stephan, who underwent chemotherapy for cancer in the 1970s, said he expects lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana after they realize it won't hurt them politically.
"For some reason marijuana just drives people up the wall," he said. "It's OK to have morphine and every drug known to man-some with just awful side effects. But not marijuana."
A legislative hearing for Finney's bill hasn't been scheduled.
February 4, 2010