TOPEKA — House and Senate committees are taking divergent approaches to medical marijuana starting with a hearing on legislation allowing legal use of oils containing no more than 5 percent of the psychoactive element of the plant.
Chairman Fred Patton, R-Topeka, said it wasn't clear how much support the medicinal oil bill could attract in the House Judiciary Committee, but parents of children who may benefit from the treatment were expected to make an intriguing case for expansion of state law with House Bill 2244.
"Parents who have been behind the bill have sent information," he said.
Democratic Rep. Jim Ward, of Wichita, said the bill reflected an incremental shift by the Republican Legislature toward medical application of marijuana. He believes a full-fledged medical marijuana bill would pass the House and Senate and that Kansas voters would approve of medicinal marijuana if the question were placed on a statewide ballot.
"It's more evidence that Kansas is ready to move forward and address marijuana issues in a more intelligent way," Ward said.
In the Senate, the Public Health and Welfare Committee scheduled a hearing Thursday on Senate Bill 113. It would allow medical cannabis to be purchased at dispensaries for individuals who receive a doctor's permission to manage pain related to established medical conditions.
Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said the medical cannabis bill would grant veterans exclusive access to dispensaries in the first 60 days the law was in effect.
"This legislation provides a highly controlled yet transparent framework for allowing Kansans safe and legal access to medical cannabis. Because wounded warriors were put on the front line, this bill puts our veterans at the front of the line," Holland said.
Eric Voth, a Topeka physician opposed to proliferation of state laws on marijuana, said medicines should be approved and regulated through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rather than by politicians. He said claims of people who contend marijuana was the only substance that worked medically were "largely not accurate."
"The medicinal marijuana push is orchestrated nationally and is part of the strategy of the legalization movement," Voth said.
The Senate bill sponsored by Holland and a companion version introduced in the House outlined the regulatory framework for allowing Kansas to join more than 30 states, including Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado, to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
"For years, Kansans have pushed to have access to medical marijuana, to the point that now over 70 percent of citizens are in favor of legalizing medical cannabis," said Rep. Cindy Holscher, D-Olathe.
Holscher and Rep. Jim Karleskint, R-Tonganoxie, introduced the medical marijuana bill in the House, which is House Bill 2163.
"Regardless of which war or conflict you look at, high rates of PTSD in veterans have been found, and there are encouraging reports of reducing anxiety, limiting or stopping nightmares and fighting insomnia as a result of PTSD with cannabis treatment,” said Karleskint, who is a Vietnam veteran.