Advocates Rally In Topeka Against Watered-Down Medical Marijuana Bill

Apr 27, 2016

Christine Gordon says a version of a bill before the Kansas Legislature would only add fees and regulatory hurdles to cannabidiol, or CBD oil - a substance that already can be accessed legally at teh federal level. She displayed a bottle of the oil at a rally Wednesday at the Capitol.
Credit Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A bill to legalize hemp oil at the state level has drawn the ire of Kansas medical marijuana advocates who say it’s too watered down to do any good.

Members of Bleeding Kansas, one of the state’s largest medical marijuana advocacy groups, rallied Wednesday at the Capitol to urge legislators to ditch Senate Bill 489.

Christine Gordon and others said the bill would only add fees and regulatory hurdles to cannabidiol, or CBD oil — a substance that already can be accessed legally at the federal level.

“I have CBD sitting in my kitchen,” she said. “I have CBD sitting with me right here today.”

Gordon illustrated the point by producing a small bottle of CBD oil and giving a dose to her 4-year-old daughter, Autumn, who suffers from persistent seizures.

A 2014 farm bill made it legal federally to sell CBD oil with up to 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the substance that produces the euphoric “high” coveted by recreational marijuana users when absorbed in higher doses.

Gordon said her daughter receives some seizure relief from the CBD oil, but she believes Autumn could benefit more from an oil with a higher concentration of THC.

A bill that previously passed the House would have allowed oil with up to 3 percent THC to be used to treat persistent seizure disorders.

The Senate added other qualifying conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s to SB 489 but restricted the THC limits to 0.3 percent for children and 1 percent for adult users. It also specified that the preparations must come from other states.

Rep. John Wilson, a Democrat from Lawrence who spearheaded the House-approved bill, said he shared Bleeding Kansas’ frustrations with the Senate changes. He said the group was correct in saying that legislation passed in other states with similar restrictions had proved nearly unworkable for patients.

“If that’s the bill that would ultimately hit the governor’s desk, I’d have trouble supporting it myself,” Wilson said.

Tracy Robles of Wichita says her 7-year-old daughter needs a higher level of THC than 3 percent, so she and her family will move this summer to Colorado, which has legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use.
Credit Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

But he’s unsure the bill will even come up for a Senate vote given the timeline of the legislative session. Meanwhile, he’s still working with House and Senate members to try to forge a compromise that is more similar to his original proposal.

Bleeding Kansas members said Wednesday they’re holding out for full legalization of medical marijuana with no restrictions on THC or qualifying medical conditions — as laid out in House Bill 2691.

Tracy Robles of Wichita said her 7-year-old daughter needs a higher level of THC than 3 percent, so she and her family will move this summer to Colorado, which has legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use.

Lisa Sublett, founder of Bleeding Kansas, said the departure from the state of someone like Robles, who has a master’s degree, should give lawmakers pause.

“Congratulations Kansas,” Sublett said. “You’re running off your talent, your taxpayers and families we love and care about.”

Wilson said he was sympathetic to the position of those looking for broader medical marijuana legalization.

But he said bills like that have gone nowhere in the last six legislative sessions, and it might be another six years before the group has a Legislature willing to give it a shot.

Meanwhile, he said he’s still hearing from some Kansas families that believe a 3 percent THC solution could be of some benefit to loved ones who experience dozens of seizures a day.

“In my opinion, the choice is: Do you want to help a few people or nobody at all?” Wilson said. “Do you want to kind of work within the political realities of the state or not? I’m trying to work within the political realities.”

Andy Marso is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso