TOPEKA, Kan. — Opponents of legalizing marijuana for medical use in Kansas told state senators Thursday that doing so would harm public health and create additional strain on state resources.
The Kansas Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee heard testimony from representatives of the medical, law enforcement and addiction treatment fields who oppose a bill to legalize the use of marijuana-based products for medical purposes and establish regulations for their distribution.
"To try to pass some sort of legislation that allows medical access sets a terrible medical precedent. It bypasses the FDA, and essentially creates medicine by popular vote," said Dr. Eric Voth, chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy.
Voth, who also runs a private medical practice in Topeka, said additional research is required into the potential medical uses for marijuana and that it's "irresponsible" to view the drug as harmless.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. It is legal to use it recreationally in four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.
Ed Klumpp, a lobbyist for Kansas chiefs of police, told the committee that the biggest problem with medical marijuana legislation is a lack of adequate study into how to properly regulate it.
Klumpp said that in neighboring Colorado, which legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and recreational use in 2012, regulations on the production and consumption of marijuana products have lagged behind. As a result, its state agencies are still searching for ways to respond to unintended consequences, including underage use and health code violations related to producers growing plants inside their homes.
Kim Brown, chairwoman of the Kansas Association of Addiction Professionals, said she believes increased access to marijuana would mean increased consumption and more people seeking treatment for addiction, putting an additional burden on already overstretched treatment programs.
Thursday's testimony came a day after the Senate committee heard from parents of chronically ill children and others who support allowing medical marijuana in Kansas.
Medical marijuana bills have been filed in Kansas every year since 2009, but none thus far have moved beyond informational hearings in committees. Asked if this bill would see further hearings, Republican Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook from Shawnee, who chairs the committee, did not comment but shook her head.