Lawmakers in the Kansas House rejected an effort Monday to allow medical marijuana in the state.
But they advanced a plan to allow the sale of some products made from cannabis — if the high-producing compounds have been removed.
The discussion over legalizing cannabis for medical purposes came as lawmakers considered regular updates to the state’s drug laws.
Democratic Rep. Cindy Holscher offered an amendment that would have created a medical marijuana system in Kansas.
She said her daughter was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and the side effects of some of her medications have been severe. Marijuana, Holscher said, might offer some relief.
“Please don’t make us lawbreakers,” she said. “Give us an option for something that has been proven to work.”
Marijuana offered a safer alternative to medications such as opioids, Holscher argued.
Republican Rep. Abraham Rafie called research on the issue “noisy.” He said studies have shown medical benefits from medical marijuana use but have also showed dangers of using cannabis.
“There’s a motivation to find what each side wants to see in the research,” Rafie said.
Rafie also raised concerns about other complications from medicinal marijuana, such as greater availability of cannabis to minors and driving under the influence.
Several lawmakers lined up during the debate to offer stories of people fighting cancer or other ailments who could benefit from medical marijuana.
Republican Rep. Troy Waymaster said he knew someone with ovarian cancer who had used medical marijuana to ease pain. However, Waymaster said such a major policy change should not have been brought up through an amendment on the floor.
“I do acknowledge the benefits of it. I’ve seen it,” Waymaster said. “But to bring this forward in a 116-page amendment is not the right process.”
Other supporters of the amendment said the normal process hadn’t given medical marijuana a fair hearing in the Legislature. Democratic Rep. Steven Crum serves on the House health committee and said the bill had not been given a chance to advance.
He said the proposal had been in the Legislature for multiple years.
“Yes, it’s in a 116-page amendment right now, but we have all had access to read what’s in this plan,” Crum said.
The proposal came up short of the 63 votes needed, failing on a vote of 54-69.
However, the underlying bill advanced. It contained a provision allowing the sale of some products containing a cannabis extract, cannabidiol, commonly called CBD. Those products can’t contain THC, the compound in marijuana that gets people high.
The measure survived a fight in the chamber. Republican Rep. John Barker tried to strike the CBD provision out of the bill, saying the product is illegal under federal law.
He said it would be easy to smuggle illegal THC-containing products into Kansas along with CBD products.
“It could be what we used to call in the old days a bootlegger’s paradise,” Barker said.
That’s not a realistic scenario, said Republican Rep. Willie Dove. He said the factories that manufacture the product are regulated.
One of the uses of the CBD oil is treating seizures. Families have asked lawmakers to legalize the product to treat their children.
Republican Rep. Erin Davis said a friend had used the oil to treat seizures in his son, Eli. She said the treatment had cut down on Eli's seizures and allowed him to take part in activities he never could before.
“Just this weekend, he participated in a Special Olympics basketball tournament,” Davis said. “Eli went from having several seizures per week to having none.”
House members still need to take a final vote on the bill. If they approve it, there will be a conference committee including House and Senate lawmakers. When the legislation passed the Senate it did not include the CBD provision.
The legislation was also amended in committee to remove kratom from the list of illegal drugs. Kratom is a supplement used by people trying to wean themselves off of opioids.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @KPRKoranda.