Medical marijuana testimony presented in Kansas House committee

This week the Kansas House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee held an informational hearing on HB 2610. This bill would legalize the use of medical marijuana for certain debilitating medical conditions. Representative Gail Finney, a Democrat who represents parts of east Wichita, introduced the bill.

An informational hearing means that the committee would take no action on the bill, so there would be no vote taken and no possibility that the bill would advance out of the committee to be considered by the entire House.

There were two bills on the committee’s agenda before the marijuana measure. After these were dispatched, Representative Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican and committee chairman, announced that she had to testify at another committee. Representative David Crum, the committee’s vice-char and an Augusta Republican, also had to attend a different committee meeting. In their absence, Representative Geraldine Flaharty, a Wichita Democrat, presided over the proceedings.

Leading off the testimony, a woman from Augusta who suffers from multiple sclerosis said she wished for other drugs besides oxycodone and morphine to relieve her pain. In the past, marijuana gave her relief, she said, but now that she stopped using the drug, she has become worse, now barely able to walk. “But I’m too old to break the law,” she said.

David Mulford of Hutchinson said he has suffered from both chronic pain and muscle spasms for 20 years. He said he has long-term experience with Marinol (a prescription pill form of the main psychoactive substance found in marijuana) and medicinal herbal cannabis.

He quoted John Walters, former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who said in 2002 that “The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research is currently conducting scientific studies to determine the efficacy of marijuana in treating various ailments. Until that research is concluded, however, most of what the public hears from marijuana activists is little more than a compilation of anecdotes.”

Mulford said that this research is now available, referring to a recent report from the Center for Medical Cannabis Research at the University of California. He said that this study found that herbal cannabis has benefits for individuals that do not respond well to current therapies. Medicinal cannabis was found to safe and effective, he said the study found.

Marinol, while an important part of his treatment plan, does not provide the same benefits as herbal cannabis. He said he finds it difficult to believe that anyone would consider him a “faker,” using his illness as an excuse to get high. He said he needs to manage his health, and only that. “We must place patients above politics,” he added.

Anthony Buckland told of how in the days before his daughter died from cancer at the age of 16, there were no non-narcotic drugs available for her to use. Cannabis, he said, would have helped control her nausea and increase her appetite, as well as controlling pain. The daughter did not want to break the law, which would have been necessary in order to use cannabis.

Brian Leininger, an attorney from Overland Park who has experience as a district attorney and city prosecutor, spoke on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of former and current law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges who at one time had fought the war on drugs, but are now opposed to the prohibition of drugs. He said that marijuana is classified as a schedule 1 drug, meaning that it has no medical benefit, which he said is not true. Many far more dangerous and harmful drugs are not classified as schedule 1 drugs, and are prescribed regularly.

He said that 14 states have approved cannabis for medical purposes. He urged the committee members to take a fair look at this legislation and vote for it when the times comes. “It’s the compassionate thing to do,” he added.

Dan Dawdy presented information on the scientific aspects of cannabis and Marinol, the pill form of synthetic THC. One difference, he said, as that Marinol contains just one compound, while medical cannabis in herbal form contains 60 naturally-occurring cannabinoids. He told the committee that the fact that Marinol is ingested orally is a problem too, according to experts. Of the many cannabinoids in natural cannabis, several have been found to be medically useful.

Dawdy explained: “We do not stop at one headache medicine or one cholesterol-lowering drug. Why not? It’s simple: one medicine doesn’t work for everyone, it doesn’t work in every situation, or for every need. … Even the best drugs don’t work for everyone.” He added that “I used to believe that cannabis was not medicine — it just made people not mind being sick.” But after seeing the medicine in action, he came to realize that medical cannabis has the ability to help many ill people improve their lives.

Tom Ballard, who said he is a long-time resident of Kansas, spoke on the issue of cannabis dependency. He told the committee that “cannabis lacks the physical and psychological dependence liabilities associated with most other substances.” He said that only ten percent of those why try cannabis meet the clinical criteria for drug dependency, which is less than the 15 percent associated with alcohol use. He said that the majority of cannabis users who are in treatment programs are there as a condition of their probation, not their choice. “Prohibitionists disingenuously argue that these admissions to treatment justify the need to maintain cannabis’ illegal status when in reality it appears to be the policy and not the use that results in the commitment of cannabis users to treatment centers.”

Ballard also addressed the effect of cannabis use on driving, saying that its effect on the ability to drive — compared to the effect of alcohol — is mild.

Tyler Feeney said that we should be having hearings on this matter, not an informational session where the leadership of the committee — referring to Representatives Landwehr and Crum — is not present, saying that they “obviously don’t care.” The audience expressed its approval of this sentiment with applause and cheers. He said it’s a disconnect when legislators take money from the pharmaceutical industry, cigarette makers, and people who sell booze, but panic at the idea of marijuana. “14 other states have done this, and the apocalypse hasn’t hit yet.”

He promoted medical marijuana as a way to help solve the state’s budget problem by earning revenue through its sale.

Feeney urged the committee to hold a real hearing instead of this informational hearing, which he characterized as a waste of time. He thanked the committee members who were still present, as by this time, many committee members had left the room. Chairman Flaharty said that some members had other appointments, and that’s why they had left.

Patrick Wilbur, Executive Director of Drug Policy Forum of Kansas, said it’s obvious that for some patients, cannabis is the best answer for them. Also, this bill does not endorse or legalize the recreational use of cannabis. He cited an ABC News/Washington Post poll that found that 81% of Americans endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana. “This is not a fringe issue. This is mainstream,” he said. The approval numbers are not as high in Kansas, he said, but there is still a solid majority of Kansans that support this.

Cheryl Riley, founder and director of the Kansas Medical Cannabis Network, spoke about the evidence supporting the medical use of cannabis, stating: “Four decades of intensive research and clinical trials in Israel and elsewhere has proved beyond any doubt to rational minds that medical cannabis is indeed effective therapy for a wide array of medical conditions.” She noted that the American Medical Association has asked the DEA to reschedule cannabis so that clinical studies could be conducted.

She also told the committee that many religious organizations have announced support for medical cannabis as a matter of human compassion.

In written testimony supplied to the committee, Dr. Jon Hauxwell, a retired physician living in Hays, wrote: “Cannabis denialists rely on a derisive catch phrase, ‘medical excuse marijuana.’ Apparently we are to believe that the tens of thousands of people who can attest to the unique benefits of cannabis therapy when other drugs have failed, are simply deluded, or faking. This is cruel and cynical. One wonders how many of these patients the denialists have actually interviewed, and by what criteria they dismissed these affirmations as crazy or deceitful. These patients deserve compassion, not derision.”

On the potential for abuse if Kansas legalizes medical cannabis, Hauxwell wrote to the committee: “As a licensed physician, I could legally prescribe or administer methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine, Oxy-Contin, and barbiturates. There are indeed some people who seek to divert these drugs for abuse. Doctors must be vigilant, and sometimes we get fooled. But we as a society have made a commitment: The abusers don’t get to call the shots. They will not be allowed to deprive legitimate patients of the right to the treatment they need.”

Concluding his written testimony, Dr. Hauxwell explained that cannabis is safe, provides proven benefits, and is a valuable and necessary option for treatment:

It is biologically plausible — and demonstrable — that cannabis safely offers a wide variety of benefits for health, benefits which have already been discovered and applied by patients across the world, and over centuries.

Denialists maintain that even if cannabis does treat a variety of medical conditions, it is unnecessary because these conditions can be treated with currently available drugs.

However, these drugs often have side-effects more disabling than cannabis, or don’t work well for some individuals. If these drugs are already adequate, we could make at least two predictions: One, no other new drugs will ever be introduced to treat the conditions cannabis can treat, because they too would be “unnecessary.” And two, no cancer patient will ever again tell her oncologist “I’m not going to take any more radiation and chemo. I know what that means, but I’d rather die than go through that again.”

Written testimony presented at this hearing is available at Informational Presentations on Kansas Medical Marijuana Act. A USA Today article that references Representative Finney and the Kansas bill is Slowly, states are lessening limits on marijuana. A recent poll that shows support for medical marijuana in Kansas is Survey USA News Poll #16266.

13 thoughts on “Medical marijuana testimony presented in Kansas House committee”

  1. Thanks for the most detailed report of the hearing that we are likely to read. Medical marijuana may be of help to some.

  2. Gail Finney, remember that name when she comes up for election and voter her “OUT”. Kansas suffers from politicans like her. Kansas doesn’t need the California liberal philosophy of legalized drugs. As California has demonstrated, medical marijuana is but a ruse for pot smokers to smoke and get high.

  3. well excuse me that i want to do with my freetime what i want to do, who are you to tell someone else how to live, if people want to smoke pot and they dont bother you, dont bother them.

  4. Upon my earlier years I admitt I had consumed some substances that are not in my best interest of a sound mind. While those years have past I realize my stupidity I say stupidity and not ignorance. However this drug war is coslty and a waste of taxpayer dollars. When the alcohol prohibition occured it did two things, one it created an underground economy that actually helped the general economy to recover, it also created waste because of going after these ‘criminals’. The only thing that has come out of this drug war is more clean drugs, and a way for the gangs to profit. Many competing factions now kill each other for this reason. Our jails are overcrowded with non-violent offenders creating more jails and more taxes. While I am not a supporter of consuming such substances I recognize what has happenned to cigarettes, smoking used to be an epidemic, but education and strict youth laws have made a mass percentage of cigarette smoking going down. This is the effective way to curb drug use, make it boring. If an indivdual is Coked up or drunk from alcohol and runs someone over even though they are not of sound decision they are the ones placed in jail not the narcotics. If an indivdual destroys there life by however means at thier home, and doesn’t cause physical harm to anyone else this is thier freedom to fail. I am not trying to be so cruel because it does effect the emotions of family and friends I understand, we do have help groups out ther today to help individuals and this is the best we can do. If we force them it makes them worse. Even though it saddens me I would never foce an individual. Once you use force you cannot stop, next is the sugar tax, then salt tax, then no smoking at all then no drinking. Have you noticed this out in the community? Once you let people be free no matter if you like it or not things do have a positive outcome there tends to be less of it. Freedom to try, freedom to buy, freedom to sell, freedom to fail.

  5. If all I wanted was to get HI, marijuana would be my first choice
    Its not about letting the world got to pot.
    HB 2610 Its about controlling a small amount of marijuana for medical use
    As a person in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction for more than 20 years smoking medical marijuana today would be the same as taking any other medication
    I am a responsible adult and don’t abuse my medications
    Guess What— legalize marijuana for medical use isn’t going to turn people into pot smoking zombies
    If the fear is it will be abused then make the laws stiffer for those who abuse the medical marijuana
    it could be form a revenue for the state
    I think the revenue stream generated from the sale and the punishment for misuse of medical marijuana could be beneficial
    what good is a marijuana tax stamp if you can’t get one unless
    you break the law to get one
    marijuana isn’t going away it here to stay so lets control it better than we are now
    For those people that smoke marijuana now nothing will change there minds about smoking or not
    it will only help those that need it the most

  6. p s = please shut up. I along with many people will vote for Gail upon election time, it’s about time someone stands up for the good of our health. When I read all the negative comments about medical marijuana and how it’s just an excuse to get high it makes me want to pull my hair out. It’s obvious that medical marijuana works, that’s why 14 states have decriminalized it for medicinal use, and 13 others are pending in some way shape or form. The states that haven’t yet are only avoiding the inevidible, it is bound to happen. Why are we denied our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Medical marijuana is all of those, but still we must suffer. I don’t understand, is it population control, would we rather people be sick and die because some people just want to get “high”? Maybe the state makes more money arresting people, or they think they do? However I doubt it’s that considering marijuana is the number one cash crop in the united states of america, or maybe we don’t want it decriminalized because our mommies and daddies told us it was bad, so it must be. Wake up people and smell the pot, it’s nothing but a gift from god for you and I. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

  7. Even though they are Democrats setting this up, at least they are real politicians… I am a Republican, but any politician willing to stand up for whats right even though it’s controversial (in Kansas) deserves my vote. If anything, it seems like the Republican (most) politicians are blinded by ignorance and the lack of wanting to learn, they are too set in their failing ways of Drug Prohibition. Do the right thing, EVEN IF YOU think Medical Marijuana is BS and a lame excuse to get high, someone there is a person who can only obtain vision through Cannabis (Glaucoma) or a person who literally can not eat because he is treated with Chemotherapy and slowly wasting away to around half his pre-therapy weight, but once he smokes Marijuana he can keep his food down and enjoy it. I know some of you anti-marijuana people think we care what you think, but we don’t. The people who know of Marijuanas’s safe ways will never change, marijuana will never leave. You can arrest as many as possible, it only ruins lives, families, destroys money and careers. FAR MORE DAMAGE THAN Marijuana would/could/ever do.

  8. Do any of the people protesting against medical marijuana have, or know someone who has chronic pain? I battle chronic pain every day. Some days the oxy doesn’t even hold the pain levels low enough to stop the neausea. I will not drive if I have taken any oxy, just like I would not drink and drive back when I still drank alcohol, and I would not drive after taking medical marijuana in whatever form it might take. I realize not all people are this responsible, but don’t fight against something with a knee jerk reaction, just because. My debate coach in high school picked a hot button topic, found where the class stood on the issues, then made us research and debate for the other side. Think about that before you get your mind set on something.

    Yes, I could go out and buy pot and say “if you won’t let me have it, I’ll get it however I can.”, but at this point it’s not worth the risk to me. If medical marijuana became legal in this state, I would talk to my Dr and decide then if I wanted to try it, but untill then I will continue to suffer and keep going the best I can.

  9. Hi, obviously there is a problem with the highest profile state that has legalized Medical Pot (CA). How would you suggest getting around their current problem of doctors pretty much providing a prescription to anyone who wants to go get stoned? (Not my opinion, but the Fed’s opinion)

    I understand that there are methods other than smoking pot that work. That will turn out to be important since it is no longer legal to smoke just anywhere now days.

    I’m a conservative / libertarian and I don’t believe in limiting what you do to your body, but I damn sure don’t want to pay for it. At this point, I think that legalizing pot / other drugs is low on our country’s list of problems. (just so you know where I stand).

    Mike

  10. If you think people just smoke pot to get high your exactly right
    People drink alcohol to get drunk whats the difference?
    why should we punish someone just because they happen to like marijuana more than alcohol
    I have never got it how those people who drink alcohol can sit back and say potheads just want to get high well this is the point of a drug you will most likely use the drug for its effects
    all recreational drugs are the same you take them because you enjoy the effects there is no difference between wanting to get high and wanting to get drunk. it is very hypocritical to punish people who use marijuana because of there own choice to use it. its there body they are not hurting you and you are not effected by there choice to use it, what people do to their own bodies in their own homes is none of anyone else’ s business how does this guy that is smoking pot look like a criminal but the one who is drinking alcohol is just someone who enjoys a drink? If you can’t look at both sides of an argument than its almost like you never had the argument in the first place. Don’t let those 70 years of marijuana propaganda in schools and TV shape your views of marijuana.

  11. Hello, being a brick & blocklayer for 33 years has wore my body out. To hurt all over from my work makes one life very miserable ! On October 04-2010 I got my finger’s cut-off, so my brick work is done. I was given hydro pill for my pain from the ammutation of fingers. Never was a pill popper because of side effects. Medicine in a paper rolled-up to smoke is what cures my pains. I pay for my chose of drug at no cost from the tax-payers. The Government tries to run our live’s with-out any hope. Marijuana gives me the hope of not having pain from the bricks and block works. My record speaks for it self. Tax-payers hasn’t paid to keep me in a prison or on welfare program. In fact, I worked in Arkansas building schools, colleges and hosptals, wearing out my body for you that live here. Sure I got paid for my services, but I beleive that I am owed more for the work I done. The pay that I ask for is to be able to take my medicine with-out the government standing in my way ! Thanks, Jesse Lyles

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