A fierce debate surrounding the potential legalization of medical marijuana erupted in a second round of testimony heard today, with opponents citing sensationalized stories ranging from cannabis-induced suicides to increased crime rates. While this attempt at halting legislation has been described as "blatant" by some observers, proponents are determined more than ever for their cause.
To kick things off at the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee meeting, an anti-abortion lobbyist in the audience presented a new bill that would criminalize abortion in Kansas, by civil enforcement, with only one critical exception, if the mother's life was in jeopardy. A fitting start for what has become a circus for cannabis advocates trying to have a reasonable discussion concerning the legalization of cannabis in the state.
At the hearing about marijuana legalization, the Senate Committee focused on only inviting opponents to speak. When questioned regarding this decision, Chairman Sen. Mike Thompson of Shawnee insisted that proponents had already given their opinion in prior hearings hosted by the 2022 Special Medical Marijuana Commission last year.
As the ringmaster of this circus, Thompson has already admitted "fear" of the cannabis industry and his unwillingness to hear from the other side contradicts his previous statements “at this point, we’re still in data collection. Do we want to make a decision in a hasty fashion? I don’t want to.” It appears that the only data Thompson is interested in is the one that fits his personal agenda.
Thompson said, “There were four days of proponents on the special committee,” and went on to state, “I felt after I watched the proceedings that none of this information was available, and people need to know this information.”
In the 2022 meetings, both sides were allowed to voice their concerns, unlike at this year's meeting.
Sen. Cindy Holscher, a Democrat representing Overland Park and member of both committees in question, has strongly opposed Sen. Thompson's perspective on the 2022 Marijuana hearings and stated this year's hearings are an injustice against Kansas citizens.
She stated, “There was so much information shared over the past few days that was either outdated or just comparing apples to oranges.”
At yesterday's meeting, the legalization of marijuana took center stage. Katie Whisman - executive director at Stand Up For Kansas and vocal opponent to its decriminalization - echoed the concerns heard by others who opposed cannabis legalization and doesn't believe federal studies that cannabis treatment has helped with PTSD.
Senate Bill 171, one cannabis Bill that is in Thompsons's committee, put forward a resolution that would legalize medical marijuana for veterans in possession of valid medical cards, as well as permit cultivation, distribution, sale & use of medicinal cannabis across the state.
Whisman, who claims to be diagnosed with PTSD, vehemently rejected the suggestion cannabis was an appropriate tool for managing her condition or others with PTSD. She joined others who considered this narrative to be insensitive and inappropriate toward veterans who suffer from PTSD. Apparently, psychedelics are legal in Kansas because Whisman appears to be delusional and sees an alternate reality that just isn't real.
Whisman went on to explain further, “I find it patently offensive that public servants and veterans are the latest group of citizens being leveraged by the industry as pawns to elicit your empathy and compassion.”
Veterans attending a meeting voiced strong approval for marijuana legislation to treat PTSD, but were not invited by Thomspon to speak on the issue. The potential benefits of this natural medicine have been lauded as invaluable by these heroes who served the country honorably.
Todd Scattini, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel is now a powerful advocate for cannabis reform. Now he is the CEO of Harvest 360 and has been an integral part of major campaigns to legalize marijuana across multiple states - he has given testimony before state Legislatures several times about its potential benefits.
Scattini says, “You can not be anti-cannabis and pro-veteran at the same time, period,” and goes on to say, “I believe that medical cannabis is the key to addressing issues of post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, substance abuse issues, things of that nature.”
Scattini voiced concerns that the information being shared during the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee hearing was highly questionable. Scattini referred to today's meeting as "pathetic" and "awful."
"Today, all I heard were opponents against it, who were spouting a lot of reefer madness and a lot of misinformation, really prone to hyperbole in such a way that it was truly offensive.” Said Scattini.
On Thursday, the Kansas House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee also heard a heated debate on marijuana as Ed Klumpp, former Topeka Police Chief and current lobbyist for two law enforcement agencies in the state of Kansas, spoke out vehemently against it.
Addressing House lawmakers, Dr. Klumpp argued that decriminalizing drug use would relieve the stigma and make it more socially acceptable for self-medicating practices.
Klumpp said, “If we start it with marijuana, what will be next?” he went on to explain further, “Will Kansas become the next Oregon and decriminalize meth, heroin, and cocaine? Which all are used as the common carriers of fentanyl in the illicit drug market. We should not start down this slippery slope.”
It's apparent that Kansas lawmakers and opponents to cannabis reform are fearful of cannabis legalization, and only because they are not properly educated on the issues. With the majority of the states having some form of cannabis legalization and several other countries that have already passed and are in the process of working out cannabis legislation, there is ample opportunity and resources to educate themselves to make an informed decision, and not rely on fear-mongering and misinformation.