Wichita Democrat introduces medical marijuana bill in Kansas House

? A Kansas legislator has introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana for people suffering from chronic illnesses who have a doctor’s prescription for the drug.

Rep. Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat, introduced a bill that would set up state-registered “compassionate care centers” where people with prescriptions could buy marijuana.

Supporters of medical marijuana says it helps ease pain from chronic diseases.

“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” said Finney, who says her lupus makes her sympathetic toward those with diseases such as Parkinson’s, cancer and HIV.

But Rep. Scoot Schwab, a Republican from Olathe, opposes the plan.

“Let’s be honest, this would be an attempt to legalize marijuana,” Schwab said Wednesday. “It has no benefit for pain management. All it does is make you crave another bag of chips.”

The bill was introduced the same week that lawmakers voted to make Kansas the first state to outlaw a synthetic form of pot, known as K2.

But Finney said several lawmakers have told her they support legalizing medical marijuana.

“Everybody said ‘oh, it’s a good idea, but I don’t want to touch it,”‘ she said.

Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said his group’s studies have found that 80 percent of Americans favor medical marijuana.

“Even in Midwestern states like Kansas, where the politics can be conservative, people support this,” he said. “We’ve largely won the hearts and minds of the American public, but we haven’t yet figured out fully how to translate that into public policy.”

Former Kansas Attorney General Bob Stephan, who underwent chemotherapy for cancer in the 1970s, said he expects lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana after they realize it won’t hurt them politically.

“For some reason marijuana just drives people up the wall,” he said. “It’s OK to have morphine and every drug known to man — some with just awful side effects. But not marijuana.”

A legislative hearing for Finney’s bill hasn’t been scheduled.