Kansas: Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced; Senate Hears From Supporters, Opponents
By Steve Elliott
State Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City) and state Rep. Gail Finney (D-Wichita) have once again introduced medical marijuana bills in the Kansas Legislature, as they've done every year since 2009.
None of the measures has ever gone beyond informational hearings, in which no action can be taken, but Sen. Haley thinks that might change this year, reports Amy Himmelberg of the Associated Press.
"I think the ice is beginning to thaw regarding the reasonableness of the issue among the leadership of the Legislature," Haley said.
Rep. Finney -- who has undergone chemotherapy for lupus -- thinks the bill will at least get a hearing after being ignored by Republican legislators for years. "Passing, I don't know about that," she added.
Rep. Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, said he's waiting to see what the Senate does with medical marijuana. "Nobody's come and really pushed it," Hawkins claimed, adding that he's heard "very little" from constituents about it. If you'd like to change that, you can click here and let Rep. Hawkins hear from the people he's supposed to be representing.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell) says he has bigger things to worry about than medical marijuana patients. "I've got a lot of other things on my radar screen that are a lot more important," Stilwell said. To contact Rep. Merrick's office, click here, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone (913) 669-8586 or (785) 296-2302, or send postal mail to 6874 West 164th Terrace, Stilwell, KS 66085.
Both SB 9 and HB 2011 would create compassion centers where authorized patients could legally obtain medical marijuana.
Informational hearings are being held Wednesday and Thursday in the Senate's Public Health and Welfare Committee to hear from both supporters and opponents of medical marijuana.
At the first informational hearing in 2010, most of the Republicans on the committee claimed they "had other commitments" and got up and left before testimony even began, Rep. Finney said.
During the next hearing in 2012, the Republican committee chairwoman "walked in with security guards with the perception there would be a bunch of druggies," Finney said. "To assume that it's only for the shoddiest people and strictly for a recreational front, that's absolutely ludicrous."
About 50 supporters attended a medical marijuana rally last Thursday at the Statehouse; the gathering was sponsored by Haley, Finney and groups advocating for their bills.
Public opinion is shifting away from "baseless charges" that marijuana is bad for you, according to Jon Hauxwell, a retired physician from Hays, Kansas. "“All over the country we are seeing a gradual acknowledgment of the benefits of rational approaches,” Hauxwell said.
He also said that with Kansas' budget problems, medical marijuana could be a significant source of tax revenue. “That wouldn’t eliminate the budget problem, but it certainly would make a bit of a dent in it,” he said.
"We have to get this done," Sen. Haley said, reports Bryan Lowry at The Wichita Eagle. "Everyone in the Capitol knows that, one day, one day, medical marijuana will be available in every one of the 50 states.
"We know that," Haley said. "The question is... will Kansas be the 24th state or the 50th?"
Photo of Rep. Gail Finney: Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle