By John Celock
The Kansas House of Representatives adopted an amendment Thursday that would allow for hemp oil to be used for medicinal purposes in the state.
The House voted 67-49 to adopt an amendment from Rep. John Wilson (D-Lawrence) that would allow the use of hemp oil in the state, setting Kansas on a path to become the 15th state to allow hemp oil. The amendment was attached to a bill that would lessen criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in the state, which passed 81-36. Wilson said the hemp oil amendment would help parents of children with seizure disorders obtain treatment in the state rather than moving to neighboring states to obtain hemp oil.
“The point is folks shouldn’t have to move to Colorado, unless they want to hike or ski in the mountains, if they want to get their treatment,” Wilson said.
Wilson cited the case of the family of Otis Reed, a Kansas child with seizures whose family moved to Colorado in order to obtain access to hemp oil and medical marijuana for his treatment. He also cited the case of the family of Owen Klug, another Kansas child, whose mother is advocating for legalization of hemp oil or medical marijuana for his treatment. Owen Klug also has a seizure disorder and his mother, Kiley, has told The Celock Report and lawmakers that a form of marijuana could help his treatment.
Wilson stressed that his amendment would only allow hemp oil and not full medical marijuana, saying that hemp oil would not contain the aspects of marijuana that would allow for a user to get high. He also stressed that the amendment would allow for a state regulatory structure that would control the prescription and distribution of the oil. He said the amendment would also allow for the tracking of the hemp seeds used to make the oil.
“What it does do, is it does not allow the growing of marijuana.” Wilson said. “It does not allow for recreational use. It does not allow for growing at home. It does not allow for all conditions.”
Opponents of the amendment said that it could lead to a series of problems, including the potential misuse of the oil for recreational use. Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee Chairman John Rubin (R-Shawnee) said that he was concerned that there would be a misuse of the hemp oil, citing what he said was recreational use of medical marijuana in Colorado, which has since legalized marijuana use statewide.
“We’ve seen what can happen in a jurisdiction where medical marijuana is not regulated,” Rubin said.
Rubin said that while the Health and Human Services Committee held hearings on the subject and crafted a bill, he wanted to see more study placed on the subject before a bill came to the House floor. He also expressed concern that the overall marijuana bill, which was crafted by his committee, could be placed in jeopardy.
“Frankly I am concerned that if this amendment goes on the bill the whole bill will fail,” Rubin said.
Wilson said in the debate that the hemp oil would not be considered marijuana. He said that anyone who tried to drink the hemp oil would not get a high from it but rather just sick.
Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita), the top Democrat on the Health and Human Services Committee, agreed with Wilson that a high could not be obtained.
“Hemp oil is marijuana without the high,” Ward said. “This is not medical marijuana, whole different debate. This is about legalizing marijuana, whole different debate.”
Several Republicans argued against the bill saying that it would go against the federal government’s rules on marijuana. They noted that the Food and Drug Administration would prohibit a drug store from dispensing hemp oil. Under the Wilson amendment, which he deemed a “Kansas solution,” separate stores would dispense the hemp oil.
Wilson questioned this logic, citing other cases where the Legislature has exerted states’ rights, including on Second Amendment issues.
“Very rarely in this body have we been afraid to go against the federal government on things,” he said.
Rep. Dick Jones said that he felt that the amendment was a backdoor solution to legalized marijuana, saying that his research does not show “definitive evidence” for hemp oil.
“This issue is nothing more than a foot in the door. If you vote for this amendment you are voting to make marijuana legal country wide, statewide,” Jones said. “There is no definitive evidence that it helps children.”
Rep. Jan Pauls (R-Hutchinson), a former judge, expressed concern that the amendment allows immunity for those prescribing and dispensing hemp oil, there would be no legal remedy for a family if something went wrong.
“It would be sad if people are acting in what they think is good faith and they have not done the proper research and a child dies,” she said.
The amendment was one of several considered on the marijuana penalty bill. The only other to pass was one to legalize the growth of industrial hemp in the state.
The Wilson amendment received backing from a spectrum of House members, including Democrats, moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans. Several House members cited the need to stand up for children during their speeches.
Rep. Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence) cited a case of a family that visited her where the a six month old child was having up to 120 seizures a day. She said the father relocated with the child to Oklahoma to obtain medical marijuana, which reduced the seizures. Ballard said the mother had to remain in Kansas for job purposes, and that the family had to make the arrangement work for their child.
Rep. Diana Dierks (R-Salina) said that House should look at the children when making a decision on the issue.
“We are here trying to create jobs and bring people to Kansas,” she said. “Are we going to stand by and watch those with special needs not have help? As this time I am asking you to look at the human side of this.”