The prospects for a formal debate on medical marijuana in the Statehouse all but died after a hearing Tuesday.
“They didn’t bring anything that we haven’t heard or seen,” said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican and chair of the Health and Human Services Committee that heard the proposed medical marijuana bill.
Several other lawmakers on the committee said they don’t think there’s enough support to warrant more discussion, at least during the 2012 session.
But about 20 supporters were poised to press on and told lawmakers about the relief marijuana has provided for a wide range of diseases and aliments. That was contrasted by a few opponents who said medical marijuana has caused problems in other states and is ripe for abuse.
Eric Voth, an internal medicine specialist who is chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, said legislative approval of medical marijuana would bypass the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and set a dangerous precedence by creating medicine policy based on popular vote.
Voth warned that smoked pot is highly impure and varies widely in the amount of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive component.
“That, in comparison, would be like saying taking a 500 milligram Tylenol tablet or a 5,000 milligram Tylenol tablet but having no idea what’s actually being presented to you because that’s not done in these marijuana dispensaries,” he said.
Jon Hauxwell, a retired family physician from Hays, challenged that.
“When people scam Oxycontins or Loritabs or Valium, the results can be fatal,” he said. “Cannabis is very different in this respect because it has no potential for lethal toxicity, such as 5,000 milligrams of Tylenol.”
He said critics brush aside marijuana supporters, saying many just get a permit to smoke recreationally. He acknowledged that some obtain cards for medical marijuana to avoid prosecution. But Hauxwell said dismissing thousands of people who say their symptoms are relieved by cannabis is a cruel deception, and that many people abuse legal prescription drugs already.
The proposal, HB2330, would allow licensed nonprofit groups to grow and dispense up to 6 ounces of marijuana per month to people with a physician’s prescription and cards issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
The proposed law would allow marijuana to be used to treat cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, chronic wasting, severe pain, nausea, seizures and other problems.
Rep. Geraldine Flaharty, D-Wichita, said she hasn’t decided whether she supports the bill or not, but she said she doesn’t want Kansas to have the situation produced in California, where medical marijuana dispensaries profilerate.
“Obviously many people think it would give them relief,” she said. “If we had some control over it, I wouldn’t have the heartache, even if it doesn’t have a lot of medical studies behind us.”
She said the stigma of marijuana seems to be the difference between allowing powerful prescription drugs and marijuana.
“We’ve had all this adverse publicity about the war on drugs in this country and in our culture for a long, long time,” she said. “So I think that culturally, it’s a different step.”