After a police raid on the hospital room of a terminally sick cancer patient who was found to be in possession of cannabis extracts, Democratic lawmakers in Kansas are renewing their call to legalize medical marijuana in the state. Officers from Hays, Kansas allegedly entered the patient’s room just days before Christmas and took a vape pen and cannabis oil.
The case will make its first court appearance on January 2. After hearing of the legal action taken against Greg Bretz, 69, the cannabis reform community responded strongly. While he was “down on my back” for weeks after being hospitalized three weeks ago, he told The Wichita Eagle he used cannabis to relieve symptoms of his condition.
According to Bretz, a doctor told him to use any measures he deemed appropriate to alleviate the discomfort. Three police officers were dispatched to his hospital room after staff members reported that he had been vaping there. He had THC paste in an edible form that was confiscated along with his vape pen.
Although Bretz said he was not using oxygen, the fear that the vaping equipment posed a fire hazard was not disproven by the staff at the Hays Medical Center. However, this may lead to criminal charges for a terminally sick man who possessed cannabis for medical purposes. Even more so, Kansas House Democrats were quick to exaggerate the incident to make their case for a policy shift.
Democratic members of the House are dedicated to making medical marijuana available to those who need it. In dozens of places, sick people can get [medical Marijuana],” the party wrote on Monday. A person’s legal obligations and access to high-quality, risk-free medical treatment are not mutually exclusive.
An incident in 2019 that echoes Bretz’s recounts how three Missouri police officers visited a hospital to look for marijuana belonging to a guy with stage four pancreatic cancer. Kansas’s neighbor to the west, Missouri, has subsequently legalized cannabis for adult use following a ballot initiative vote last month. Meanwhile, Kansas is one of a dwindling handful of states that have maintained prohibition despite the growing acceptance of cannabis for medical purposes.
House Dems are committed to legalizing access to medical marijuana. #MMJ is available to ill patients in dozens of states across the country.
— Kansas House Democrats (@KSHouseDems) December 26, 2022
A medicinal marijuana bill passed the Kansas House of Representatives in the previous session, but it never made it out of the Senate. Legislators who back the change are looking forward to the next session. This month, a special committee concluded its deliberations on medicinal Marijuana problems, providing input that will be utilized to shape reform legislation for the 2023 session.
As part of their research, members of the Special Committee on Medical Marijuana visited a cannabis cultivation facility in Missouri this month, where they discussed the many concerns they’ve been addressing with government officials and industry professionals for the past few months. The goal for the upcoming new year is to complete a report with legislative suggestions.
In a previous session in October, lawmakers honed in on the reform’s “public policy implications,” hearing from stakeholders and activists on how to properly regulate the market, touching on themes like track-and-trace, the benefits and drawbacks of license caps, and the role that physicians should play.
An initial meeting of the bicameral committee, which had been constituted in June, took place in October, with state officials, police enforcement, and an Oklahoma medical cannabis regulator all expressing their input. As these debates have been going on, a spokesperson for the leading Kansas Republican senator has declared the topic is “not a priority,” drawing fire from the Democratic leadership in the House.
To paraphrase the spokesman, any federal action “would be another proof that” Senate President Ty Masterson (R) sees the topic of reform as “maturing.” The senator, who has a lot of sway over what bills get passed, says, “it is not a priority.”
Despite significant momentum and the support of Gov. Laura Kelly (D), lawmakers were unable to pass a medical cannabis bill by the end of the 2022 session in May. Advocates are still hopeful that the committee’s work will lay the groundwork for meaningful action when the legislature reconvenes in January 2023.
The panelists on this special committee were hand-picked by the House and Senate leaders. Democratic Minority Leader in the House Tom Sawyer expressed frustration in June, saying, “I’ve been fairly irritated that we have yet to get a measure approved.” Sawyer was referring to the fact that the House voted to legalize medicinal marijuana last year, but the Senate has been less active.
The Senate did convene a number of hearings on cannabis legalization this year, but senators never got around to scheduling a vote. Late in the session, the leaders of the two houses of the legislature organized a conference committee charged with reaching an agreement that would be acceptable to both houses.
Democratic lawmakers attempted a last-ditch effort to legalize medicinal cannabis before the legislative deadline, but Olson stated in May that his committee’s “heavy load” meant that lawmakers would not be “carrying this proposal across the finish line this year.”
Two public conference meetings were held in April by members of the House and Senate Federal and State Affairs Committees to discuss a method to combine the medical marijuana bill passed by the House with a different one being considered by the Senate this year.
At the most recent formal meeting, House representatives discussed the parts of the Senate bill that they were ready to accept and the parts that they wanted to maintain. In January, Sawyer and Democratic Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst indicated they favored putting the question of medical and adult-use marijuana legalization to a vote of the people.
The governor supports legalizing medical cannabis and has said this year that she is optimistic that the law would succeed if other issues aren’t prioritized more heavily. She had previously advocated for a different plan to legalize medicinal cannabis and use the proceeds to fund Medicaid expansion, with Representative Brandon Woodard (Democrat) filing the bill on the governor’s behalf.
Kelly has said that she hopes voters would put pressure on their lawmakers to enact the reform. Kelly said that her administration is “focused on legalizing medical marijuana so that Kansans with severe illnesses no longer have to suffer” in response to President Joe Biden‘s announcement regarding pardons for people who have committed federal marijuana possession offenses and urging governors to follow suit.
She also said that they will “continue to consider all clemency and pardon requests based on a complete and thorough evaluation of the individual circumstances.” The governor added in 2020 that she wouldn’t push for legalizing marijuana for adults but wouldn’t oppose a bill to do so either.