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Marijuana On Panel Agenda

Rocky Balboa

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A Senate health committee will hear testimony today on a bill that would allow certain medical conditions as a defense against prosecution for marijuana possession. Under the Kansas Medical Marijuana Act, people with a debilitating disease could present to the judge a "written certification" from their doctor attesting to the relief marijuana provides.

"(This bill) doesn't legalize marijuana, it doesn't decriminalize it," said Laura Green, director of Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition. "It just allows a person who has a serious debilitating medical condition who gets arrested for marijuana to bring it up to a court."

Jon Hauxwell, a physician from Hays, will testify in favor of the bill. He used to work on a reservation in Montana where he dealt with substance abuse issues. He said he understands the opposition to this bill, but he added that the medical community has never allowed those who abuse a drug to deter doctors from prescribing it to patients in need. He listed morphine and Ritalin as other legally prescribed drugs to which patients can get addicted.

"We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater," Hauxwell said.

Former Attorney General Robert Stephan, a cancer survivor himself, also will testify in favor of the bill. In August, he came out in favor of legalizing the drug for medical use.

He said at the time he believes "the state should not pre-empt the role of the physician when it comes to deciding what is best for ill Kansans."

The legislation defines a debilitating condition as "cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic" or any other condition that causes a host of debilitating symptoms.

Current law doesn't allow judges or juries to consider a medical condition when prescribing punishment for possession of the drug.

"You can't even mention it," Hauxwell said.

The bill faces an uphill battle in a state wary of legislation that even smells like marijuana legalization. Senate Health Care Strategies Committee member Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, opposed the introduction of the bill. She said there was no way of standardizing dosages of marijuana.

And committee chairwoman Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, who is in remission from stage four non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and whose son survived leukemia, said in a recent article about medical marijuana that there are other drugs on the market that work.

Source: Topeka Capital-Journal
Author: James Carlson
Copyright: 2008 The Topeka Capital-Journal
Website: CJOnline
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