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Feature: Push for Medical Marijuana Underway in Kansas

An effort to bring Kansas into the ranks of the medical marijuana states took a big step forward last Friday as one of the state's most well-known political figures appeared at a news conference at the state capitol to announce his support of such a move. Former Attorney General Robert Stephan, a Republican who held the position from 1979 to 1995, told the news conference the state has an obligation to act to allow its citizens to use medications that would alleviate suffering.
Robert Stephan, KSCCC press conference, August 2007
"Let me make clear that I am in no way advocating drug legalization," said Stephan, who has been on record as a medical marijuana supporter since 1983. "But I also do not believe that the state should preempt the role of the physician when it comes to deciding what's best for ill Kansans. That's why I support changing state law to ensure that individuals can obtain and use a limited amount of marijuana if recommended by their doctor -- without fear of prosecution."

Stephan cited his own experience as a cancer patient, as well as the suffering of other patients, in calling for a Kansas medical marijuana law. Rejecting opposition to the medicinal use of marijuana as "voodoo medicine" and recounting the moans of misery he heard on the cancer ward, Stephan said, "It seemed incomprehensible to me that there should be such suffering and any drug, including marijuana, should be available to assist the patient." Stephan said access to medical marijuana should not be limited to cancer patients. It has proven useful for glaucoma, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, and other diseases, he said.
Stephan declined a Drug War Chronicle request for an interview. He said he feared talking to a publication that advocates for drug legalization would damage his cause.

Last Friday's event marked the public coming out for the Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition, which has been busy laying the groundwork for a campaign it hopes will lead to legislation next year. It certainly garnered attention in the Jayhawk State. A Google search this week produced dozens of local media mentions of the news conference.

And that's just fine with KSCCC head Laura Green. "Our goal is to get a bill introduced in the Kansas legislature to protect seriously ill Kansans from arrest and prosecution for using marijuana as a medicine," said Green, "and this will kick-start the conversation."

It is a conversation that could use a boost in the Heartland. Twelve states with some 50 million inhabitants currently have medical marijuana laws, but none of them are in the Midwest. Efforts in legislatures in states such as Illinois and Minnesota have not reached fruition, while voters in South Dakota last year narrowly defeated a medical marijuana initiative -- the first state to reject medical marijuana at the ballot box.

The KSCCC is not carrying a pre-drafted bill to present to the legislature, said Green. "We're still five months away from the legislative session, so we don't have a bill yet," she said. "We're working with individual legislators and trying to built support and a consensus. There are many different medical marijuana models out there, and we're looking for one that our legislators can get comfortable with," Green said.

Some Kansas politicians were quick off the mark to reject medical marijuana after last Friday's press conference, but Green is not concerned. "We don't have a lot of political support right now, but that's to be expected," she argued. "Some politicians say they haven't had a chance to hear from their constituents, while even some of the ones who say publicly they're against it tell us something different in private."

It's not just legislators, said Green, who added she and the KSCCC will do everything they can to make sure elected officials do hear from constituents favoring a medical marijuana bill. The coalition is about a year old and some 400 members strong right now. "We're going around the state recruiting members -- patients, physicians, nurses, members of the religious community -- to try to build our numbers," Green said.

The Kansas State Nursing Association is a key target. The influential group will vote on a medical marijuana resolution in October, Green said, noting that an endorsement from the nurses will be a powerful tool.

The group is also attempting to get the Kansas clergy on its side. "We are getting a lot of religious support," said Green, who, as head of the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas spent long hours mapping out the state's hundreds of congregations as part of laying the groundwork for drug reform efforts. "We did a mailer to members of the clergy last Friday, and we've already had 30 responses. The response from the clergy has really been great," Green said.

If the legislative record in other medical marijuana states is any indication, KSCCC and its supporters have a long and twisting road in front of them. Passage of a medical marijuana law seems to be almost universally a three-year affair, or more. But in Kansas, patient proponents have been laying the groundwork for a year or more, and now they have emerged with a key state political figure standing with them. If they manage to enter the legislative session in January with some momentum, they just might short-circuit the normal, glacial legislative process.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Ahh... the power of pain!

I'm glad Stephan is onbaord... a prominent Republican nonetheless... I guess miracles do happen.

It saddens me though that it took so long to publicly proclaim his compassion for himself... I guess all we have to do is give the rest of the prohibitionists cancer and/or make them spend a few nights in a cancer ward.

The Christian value of pain & suffering is very strange & powerful force... it does not have to be their own pain & suffering... pain & suffering inflicted on others, I believe, is god's preferred method for punishing those that understand and resist the sick intentions of orthodox religion.

Perhaps if Stephan gets popped & convicted for possession and spends a few years in prison he might feel differently about imprisoning peaceful people who choose soft drugs like cannabis over hard drugs like alcohol.

Billy B Blunt
Tacoma, WA

Push for Medical Marijuana Underway in Kansas

I applaud former Attorney General Robert Stephan for his insightful efforts in supporting the legalization of cannabis for medical use. The Midwest has been in the grip of ignorance far too long regarding the value of cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain and many other medical problems for which mainstream pharmaceuticals are ineffective. I pray that politicians throughout the Midwest will have the courage to rally behind Mr. Stephan in his effort to educate and defend the rights of medical patients throughout the Midwest.

Stephan's insight

The righty's insight was brought about by his own cancer problems. Maybe we should wish more cancerous insights upon the prohibitionists at large.Live and learn or die in pain?

best model

There's one best model type of law given the current attitude of the federal gov't, and that is to work within the parameters of the federal Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana should be dispensed at cost by local police according to prescriptions written by any practitioner currently authorized to prescribe drugs (controlled or otherwise) for the condition in question. The police should grow cannabis according to demand, but to satisfy shortages they should use marijuana that has been seized. The police should make the availability of marijuana known and prosecute anyone who attempts to buy without a valid prescription. This is a sell-and-bust operation (the bust omitted in case the patient or household member has a valid prescription), which makes the police into officers enforcing a law on controlled substances, for which purpose they may manufacture and distribute and do not have to register with the DEA.

The patients should be deputized by the police as officers charged with disposal of a controlled substance, and paid for their time doing it.

dishonorable behavior

It's sickening how many people shrug at the suffering that could be alleviated by cannabis until they or someone they they care about is affected by medical marijuana prohibition. Like suffering people don't even exist. The same despicable attitude underlying the war on drugs in general.

Just a matter of time...

money......thats why it is illegal today. Nothing more or less. Try making lettuce illegal and see how many people get mad. The one plat that is here for all kinds of reasons is beeing restrained because it is so powerful. The United States new along time ago that it could not fight the desire to smoke and bring about a nation that will not be lazy. Now were here with a little under 50 percent of people in jail or prison soley becuase they smoke pot. Yes it is illegal, and so is friving 60 in a 55. And the sad thing is that one of these is more harmful that the other. One day as a nation we will find us a lewader that knows all to well that marijuana will save us in more ways that one. Were or on the brink I assure you of it beeing legalized everywhere. the plant stands alone as one of the most vigorous and gorgeous of all plants. You take an alcoholic who beats his kids and wife and you give him some marijuana instead, it makes it almost impossible for him to hurt anyone. The drug got a bad rap years ago when our nation need for unionship. SWo many things really did have bad effects and caused harm, so we will just put this with those. But now we realize it was all just B.S, and we all know it but were to chiken to man up and say, I like the stuff, sure makes my day better. But we will hide for a while and we will lose a battle that we cannot fight. But sooner or later your attempts to wash out pot for reasons of it beeing bad will soon be over taken by the reallity that marijuana is gift to billions who did not find God or might had some problems growing up. Or if the pain in their body is relieved only in way that the patient can explain. MArijuana can be grown prcactically anywhere. It has to this date close to 500 or so different types of its own species. If you smoke it alday long and dont care much about anything else, it will get the best of you. I owe my life to America, and will fight regardless . I mean I do not know how many people died for freedom. I wonder how many people who actually vote for this or who has the nerve to slide it down the way ever looked an enemies face and had to make the choice to shoot or be shot for a nation who wants to take away something that is hurting our nation in the first place. Wake up USA. How long do we have anyway. Stamp it, make money off of it. Turn the oil it produces into something useful. Use the hemp to make paper, rope, canvas, etc..There are alot of mean people out there who use this drug to not be so mean. They use this drug so that it allows them to not overthink things, and be so hiper. Some people use this drug because it just is nothing like it in the world. Nothing in the worrld like it. There will never be anything like it. It became illegal because it was THOUGHT to be harmful. But now that you know it is not, be a leader once more and watch the world follow suit. But either way, if you want to be second go ahead, but it is a matter of time.

this bill needs to pass

i am glad to see some action taking place, this has been long over do. this bill can help so many people not just cancer but with chronic pain and other illnesses, more people need to open there minds and see how much good this little plant can do, why let people suffer when there is no need. this bill should of been up and passed long ago, there are so many who use discreetly and risk jail for illness this needs to end and people with illness need to be able to use all options.

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