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Friday, March 07, 2008

Marijuana Legislation DIES in KS Senate Committee

Marijuana Legislation Dies in KS Senate Committee
Marijuana Legislation Dies in KS Senate Committee
Posted by CN Staff on March 03, 2008 at 04:39:22 PT
By Adrianne DeWeese
Source: Kansas State Collegian

Kansas -- A proposed bill in a Kansas Senate committee that would establish a medical marijuana defense act failed to advance further nearly three weeks after its introduction.
After testimony from supporters and opponents on Feb. 11, the Senate Committee on Health Care Strategies members chose to not advance the proposed bill to a stage of committee debate. The legislation is now considered "dead" for the 2007 Kansas legislative session, but those in favor and against the issue continue their debate and stances.

The Proposed Legislation

Senate Committee on Health Care Strategies vice chairman Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, said the proposed legislation died in committee Friday because of today's Kansas legislative session turnaround.

The legislature now is in the second year of its biennium, which means all proposed bills in either the Kansas House or Senate had to leave the Senate on or before Friday. An exception to the rule takes place if proposed legislation is introduced in the Ways or Means Committee or Federal State of Affairs, in which case the bill would have until the end of the legislative session, Brungardt said.

Health Strategies committee members had a general consent that more medically effective and legal drugs exist, Brungardt said, and the proposed legislation received no further debate or discussion in committee.

"The impression you get with casual talk from members is that it was not supported," Brungardt said.

The proposed Senate bill would be known as the Medical Marijuana Defense Act, according to the proposed legislation. The proposed bill defined what constitutes a "debilitating medical condition" and "written certification" from a physician.

According to the proposed Senate bill, "debilitating medical condition" might include, but is not limited to, one or more of the following:

* Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease or the treatment of these conditions; or

* A chronic or debilitating disease or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: Cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe pain; severe nausea; seizures, including, but not those limited to, those characteristic of epilepsy; bladder spasticity or inflammation or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

"Written certification" from a physician means a physician-signed document who also is in good standing with the state board of healing arts, according to the proposed Senate bill.

A Collaborative Effort

With Former Kansas Attorney Gen. Robert Stephan as their legal consultant, the Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition testified before the Kansas Senate Committee on Health Care Strategies on Feb. 11 in support of the proposed legislation.

The Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition has existed for about a year-and-a-half, said Laura Green, coalition director. The coalition has about 850 members, including cancer patients, their family members, doctors, nurses and caregivers.

Stephan's press conference about medicinal marijuana at the State Capitol in August 2007 developed an interest about the proposed legislation, Green said.

"With his involvement, we were able to bring it to the legislature," Green said. "I don't think we would have been able to advance our bill without his support, especially in an election year."

Stephan, who served as Kansas attorney general from 1979-95, said in a telephone interview that he supports only the medicinal uses for marijuana. He said under the proposed legislation, patients who use marijuana for medicinal purposes could still be charged with a crime. However, if a judge finds that the marijuana had been recommended for medical purposes, Stephan said the person in possession of marijuana would have a defense for it.

Stephan has supported medicinal marijuana for 25 years and the reclassification of marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug. Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and have no currently accepted medicinal use in treatment in the U.S. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse along with a currently accepted medical use treatment in the U.S. or currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions, according to the DEA's Web site.

During his testimony before the Senate Committee on Health Care Strategies, Stephan said he visited cancer patients for 15 years in Topeka and Wichita hospitals. He said some patients told him they resorted to marijuana as a last resort to relieve their nausea.

"I hope these people who oppose medicinal marijuana never have to suffer like the people I have seen and talked with and the people who use it as a last resort," Stephan said a telephone interview. "If I was a researcher, I'd probably say, 'May God have mercy on their souls.'"

Stephan said he will continue to advocate medicinal marijuana use and proposed legislation in its support.

On May 15, 2007, DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner submitted her recommendation to the DEA's deputy administrator that stated she found it is "in the public interest" to end the federal monopoly on the marijuana supply that could be used in FDA-approved research.

"If we can get enough states, its passage will send a message to the DEA and federal government to reclassify it and allow for further research," Stephan said. "Even the opponents say further research is needed, but they know darn well that adequate marijuana cannot be produced for research, so they're talking through both sides of their mouths."

Green said coalition members plan to reintroduce the bill during the 2009 Kansas legislative session.

"That's very disappointing for us that they wouldn't take the vote in the committee to advance the bill," she said. "We'll hope that whatever committee it goes through next year that they'll have the political willpower to at least hold a vote in the committee."

A Medical Perspective

Dr. Eric Voth, a medical director at Stormont-Vail HealthCare in Topeka, is the chairman of The Institute on Global Drug Policy. Voth has more than 30 years of experience as an authority on drug use. He said medicinal marijuana is bad medicine because of its THC ranges.

THC levels in available marijuana range from 2 percent to 30 percent, Voth said. Because of this range, Voth said marijuana has a very narrow therapeutic window for pain relief - lower levels have no effect on pain while THC levels above a certain point intensifies pain, he said.

According to a recommendation from National Academy Press in 1999, clinical trials of marijuana for medical purposes should be conducted under limited circumstances, including the following: trails should involve only short-term marijuana use of less than six months; be conducted in patients with conditions for which there is a reasonable expectation of efficacy; be approved by institutional review boards; and collect data about efficacy.

Voth said the FDA should take precedent in its establishment of drug policies instead of the legislative process.

"There's a tremendous amount of emotion with marijuana that's making people not think clearly," he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Web site, a pharmaceutical product called Marinol is widely available through prescription as a pill. Marinol's active ingredient is synthetic THC, which has been found to relieve nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy with cancer patients and loss of appetite with AIDS patients, according to the department's Web site.

Other States' Policies

Laws that effectively remove state-level criminal penalties for growing or possessing medical marijuana now exist in 12 states, including New Mexico. A bill in support of medicinal marijuana passed the New Mexico state legislature and received Gov. Bill Richardson's support in spring 2007.

New Mexico Rep. John Heaton, D-Carlsbad, said he "vehemently opposes" the legislation. Heaton, a pharmacist, said marijuana is a weak painkiller and anti-nauseant. He also said the issue supersedes the FDA and its drug-approval process.

"Legalizing one more drug in our society is now what we need to be doing as policy-makers; we should be doing just the opposite," Heaton said. "We have a national organization that approves or disapproves drugs, and that national organization has not approved marijuana for inhalation. The day it is, it will be legal in the United States, but today it's not legal."

Complete Title: Medicinal Marijuana Legislation Dies in KS Senate Committee

Source: Kansas State Collegian (KS Edu)
Author: Adrianne DeWeese
Published: March 3, 2008
Copyright: 2008 Kansas State Collegian