Topeka, Ks. (westernkansasnews.com)
State Sen. David Haley (D-4) has introduced a bill that would allow Kansans with debilitating medical conditions to obtain and use marijuana without fear of arrest. Advocates for medical marijuana patients and their families are calling on members of the Public Health and Welfare Committee to act swiftly and hold a hearing on the bill.
S.B. 9 would allow patients with certain qualifying conditions, who have received recommendations from their physicians, to privately possess up to six ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 marijuana plants in their homes. It also calls on the Kansas Department of Public Health to regulate and license medical marijuana compassion centers to provide medicine to qualified patients. The department would be able to limit the number of centers in any particular area.
“There is a mountain of evidence demonstrating the efficacy of marijuana in the treatment of a variety of debilitating medical conditions,” said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization. “Seriously ill people who use marijuana to treat their conditions and improve the quality of their lives should not live in fear of being arrested and possibly thrown in jail.”
“They should be able to obtain it safely and legally without having to resort to illegal drug dealers in an underground market,” Riffle said.
“Kansas is a conservative state, but this is not a conservative or liberal issue,” said Sen. Haley. “This is a public safety issue. Many of the opioids and other narcotics these patients take now carry serious side effects and cause thousands of accidental overdose deaths every year. Marijuana, like any medication, is not harmless, but its side effects are milder, and it has never caused a fatal overdose. The bottom line is this is the right thing to do.”
Under current law, Kansans who use marijuana to treat their debilitating conditions face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine for a first-offense possession conviction. Subsequent arrests for possession of any amount are punishable by more than three years in jail and a $100,000 fine. Personal cultivation of a single marijuana plant is a felony in Kansas that carries a penalty of up to 17 years in prison.
This is the third year in a row that a Kansas state legislator has proposed legislation to protect medical marijuana patients. In previous years, supporters have been denied a hearing in the Public Health and Welfare Committee.
“We sincerely hope the Public Health and Welfare Committee will recognize the seriousness of this issue and give these patients the fair hearing they deserve,” Riffle said. “The legislature should not be playing politics when the quality of life for seriously ill people and their families is at stake.”
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia currently allow qualified patients to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. At least ten more states are expected to consider similar legislation this year.
The Marijuana Policy Project, the largest marijuana-policy-reform organization in the United States, has been responsible for most state-level marijuana reforms passed since 2000. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.