Before making a final decision on a move that will split their family, Kathy and Ryan Reed spent two days in January speaking to Kansas lawmakers about the prospect of allowing medical marijuana use in the state.
As plans now stand, Ryan will leave May 1 with the couple’s 2-year-old son, Otis, for Colorado, where the boy will start receiving medical marijuana treatments for the hundreds of seizures he experiences daily. Kathy will remain in Kansas until it is learned whether the treatments are working.
In a last effort to avoid the move, the couple decided to visit legislators at the start of this year’s session in the hopes that putting human faces behind the medical marijuana issue would sway opinion.
“Our goal in going there was to say, ‘Here’s something you may not have seen before. We’re normal people looking for some help. We would love to keep living here, but we can’t right now because of the law,’” Ryan said.
The Reeds found legislators respectful and sympathetic, but they offered little prospect the law would change “any time soon,” Ryan said.
The Reeds said the lawmaker who took the most interest in their story was Rep. John Wilson. The Lawrence Democrat said Sunday he shares the Reeds’ pessimism that any medical marijuana legislation would pass this year.
Bills allowing medical marijuana were introduced in the House and Senate this session, Wilson said. But the Senate bill will not make it out of committee, and it is unlikely the House bill would this late in the session, he added.
Despite the slim chances for any immediate action on the issue, Wilson said he is working behind the scenes to learn what could be done to pave the way for future passage of medical marijuana legislation. One thing he was told could help was the endorsement of the state’s medical establishment of medical marijuana use. He doubts that will happen, expecting instead that medical organizations would be neutral to or oppose a change, as they have in other states.
Wilson said he has studied similar legislation across the nation, including a Georgia bill that would allow the state’s five research hospitals to make marijuana oil extract high in cannabinoids but with little or no THC, the drug's intoxicating ingredient, available for testing on patients suffering seizures. The bill passed the Georgia House overwhelmingly, he said.
Short of changing the law, Wilson would advocate that Kansas University Medical Center be allowed to test medical marijuana's effectiveness on seizure patients, he said.
The Reeds, meanwhile, oppose proposals that allow access only to the cannabinoid extract of the marijuana plant. There is anecdotal evidence from Colorado that suggests THC and other marijuana plant ingredients help with some child seizure cases, Kathy said. She also notes THC could benefit patients suffering from a number of other conditions, from depression to sleep apnea, as well as its better-known glaucoma and chemotherapy applications.
The Reeds said Colorado is now a pharmaceutical laboratory of sorts. They're confident the anecdotal evidence that persuaded them to make the move to the state will soon be clinically documented, providing the evidence to overcome resistance in Kansas and other states. That trend is already developing, they said, citing the Epilepsy Foundation's statement last month calling for greater access to medical marijuana.
“That’s huge,” Ryan said. “I think it’s only a matter of time.
"People should move to Colorado because they want to enjoy the mountains and the lifestyle, not because of a medical treatment that is banned in their home state.”