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Medical Marijuana Bill Gets A Hearing But Is Unlikely To Advance In Kansas

Herb Fellow

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TOPEKA - Several people on Monday urged Kansas lawmakers to approve a measure that would allow some patients to use notes from their doctors as a defense for possessing marijuana.

Opponents, including law enforcement, the state Board of Pharmacy and the Kansas Medical Society questioned marijuana's effectiveness in treating symptoms of such diseases as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

The measure, S.B. 556, is dubbed the "medical marijuana defense act." It would apply to people with diseases such as glaucoma, cancer or multiple sclerosis.

Eleven states have medical marijuana programs in some form, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

The idea drew a lot of attention, but the committee is not likely to vote on it.

Sen. Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said that the medicines used to treat pain and nausea for cancer patients have come a long way. "I don't see it as something that is necessary in this day and age," she said of medical marijuana.

Eric Voth, the chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, said the measure would create a "get-out-of-jail-free card" for people who could convince a doctor they needed marijuana.

"Marijuana is a sorry excuse for medicine," Voth said. He said the bill was part of a national push to legalize the drug.

"Extensive studies have not proven the claim that it helps in any way, and the harm that it would do to our society as a whole makes this bill not in the best interest of the state," said agent Jeff Brandau of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Other opponents said the measure would make it difficult to tell children that marijuana was harmful, and they raised the vision of street corner pot shops.

However, some patients and their families see marijuana as a relief to their suffering.

Bette Hulser of Topeka said that when her son was suffering from multiple sclerosis, smoking marijuana stopped his screaming.

"After seeing my son, I knew then I would never do anything to stop him from smoking marijuana," said Hulser, who described herself as "pretty straight-laced."

The measure does not legalize marijuana for anyone, countered Laura Green, the director of the Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition. Green said she had heard from hundreds of people whose family members had used marijuana to relieve their suffering.

"We cannot continue to let these vulnerable people be convicted of illegal drug use when they are simply trying to gain relief from pain and suffering with their doctor's support," she said.

Source: The Kansas City Star
Copyright: 2008, The Kansas City Star
Contact: Jeannine Koranda, jkoranda@wichitaeagle.com
Website: www.kansascity.com | 02/11/2008 | Medical marijuana bill gets a hearing but is unlikely to advance in Kansas
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