Kansas medical marijuana opponents snub invitation for debate


ON THE RECORD: Kansas for Change President Esau Freeman records video of Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, speaking Friday at the state Capitol in favor of medical marijuana legislation.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

TOPEKA, Kan. — After seeing medical marijuana legislation hit a brick wall in both chambers of the Kansas Legislature, Democratic Sen. David Haley decided to take matters into his own hands and force the debate that other lawmakers weren’t willing to have.

Too bad the other side didn’t bother to show up.

While medical marijuana supporters extended an olive branch to opponents of cannabis reform, no opponents showed up Friday while a crowd rallied behind Haley’s SB 9, and its counterpart HB 2198, under the Capitol dome.

Just before to the gathering, Senate President Susan Wagle told Kansas Watchdog her schedule was booked for the day, and that she had never received an invitation to the event.

Kansas for Change President Esau Freeman says that’s simply not true.

“I would have to say that she must have forgotten that I called her office (Tuesday) and invited her via her staff,” Esau said.

Republican Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a chief opponent of SB 9 and chair of the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare, did not respond to calls for comment.

As medical marijuana supporters flowed into the Capitol prior to the event, sneers and jeers were in the air. Security guards joked about setting up an amnesty bin to collect pot from those attending the rally, and state lawmakers chuckled while asking why the gathering wasn’t set for 4:20 p.m.

BOLD STATEMENT: Don Woodard, a member of Kansas’ Silver Haired Legislature, says as a 70-year-old, he would like to see how medical cannabis could help ease symptoms associated with his diagnosed multiple sclerosis.

“It shows a total lack of respect,” Freeman said. “It shows a lack of respect for the patients that are suffering from cancer every day. It shows a lack of respect for those of us who get up every day and advocate for a change in our society. I expect more from our legislators in Kansas.”

With a median age north of 30, the crowd wasn’t the stereotypical assemblage of hippies and stoners, but concerned citizens and community leaders.

Don Woodard, a self-proclaimed teetotaler and member of Kansas’ Silver Haired Legislature, which represents the interests of more than 450,000 senior citizens, said he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“I’ve never taken an illegal substance, and I really don’t want to at 70 years of age, but I’d like to try medical marijuana to see how it treats my symptoms,” Woodard said.

Woodard said he spoke with Republican Rep. Steve Brunk, who told him HB 2198 hasn’t been granted a hearing before the Federal and State Affairs Committee because other legislation has taken priority, not because of a personal stance on the bill.

“I’m willing to put my faith and my trust in the intelligence and common sense of the Legislature to do the right thing,” Woodard said.

Haley capped his comments with a simple request — that lawmakers on both sides of the issue simply agree to debate the matter.

“When other states continue to have this discussion and to move on legislation for or against, why are we deprived?” Haley asked. “Why is Kansas deprived of leadership that wants to hear the people’s voice?”

Related: Grandpa get your weed: Seniors support Kansas cannabis reform
Related: Buzzkill: KS speaker won’t squash medical marijuana; he won’t support it, either
Related: Marijuana legalization not high on Kansas legislative priorities
Related: Kansas senator refuses to address hearing for medical marijuana bill

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at @muckraker62. Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!

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