In June of 2018, 57% of Oklahoma voters cast a vote in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. A few months later in Missouri, 66% of voters showed their support.
As our neighboring states offer residents an additional tool to treat many medical conditions, Kansas lawmakers finally seem to recognize that continued dismissal of medical marijuana options isn’t prudent.
“This thing is going to go-go-go eventually, and we all need to kind of be at the table and make it a good piece of legislation to help people,” said Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat, during a recent meeting of the Special Committee on Federal and State Affairs.
She is right. We commend the special committee for beginning the conversation about cannabis and its role in Kansas.
The committee voted to recommend to the Legislature an affirmative defense for out-of-state residents who carry legally obtained medical marijuana through Kansas. Should a person be stopped by law enforcement and found in possession of cannabis for medical reasons, they could argue in court the cannabis was legally prescribed in their home state.
We support this as a minimum measure and urge the Legislature to go further. It is a waste of public safety resources to prosecute men and women visiting Kansas who are using medically prescribed cannabis.
Committee members also recommended the Legislature begin discussions about medical marijuana from the framework of a bill passed in Ohio in 2016. The Ohio bill permits approved physicians to prescribe cannabis for patients with certain medical conditions, like PTSD, cancer, chronic pain and Crohn’s disease. Smoking and growing marijuana aren't permitted under the Ohio bill. The prescription allows patients to seek cannabis treatments in the form of topicals and edibles.
While public opinion continues to rise for medical marijuana options, barriers remain from law enforcement.
“Proponents of this, they want to get high,” Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said to the committee. “That’s my opinion of it, and that’s the opinion of law enforcement.”
It is irresponsible of the sheriff to reduce supporters of medical marijuana to high-seekers. Cannabis products are safely and legally used for medical purposes in 33 states. Kansans want what others have — the option to use the products if faced with an illness or chronic condition. And frankly, they shouldn’t have to worry about prosecution for treating medical conditions.
Chad Issinghoff, a medical doctor practicing in Hutchinson, summed up the issue nicely in his testimony: “I do not believe that medicinal cannabis is a medical panacea. Nor do I believe that the State of Kansas is opening a Pandora’s box if medicinal cannabis is approved. I do believe that medicinal cannabis might offer to those who suffer from chronic illnesses some benefit in reducing symptom severity, a decrease in conventional medication side effects, increased ability to tolerate a wide variety of symptoms, and to better function in society.”
Kansas doesn’t have to create anything new. The Legislature would be wise to assess what’s working across the country and adopt a reasonable policy that allows adults the ability to access cannabis-based remedies prescribed by a doctor.