Veterans testify on Kansas medical marijuana bill

? Navy veteran Raymond Schwab started treating symptoms from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with a slew of prescription medications that he said nearly ruined his life. But he found relief in cannabis therapy that helped him to get a degree and be a more effective parent, Schwab told a panel of Kansas senators on a second day of hearings.

The Kansas Senate’s Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee heard Schwab — who was deployed during the Bosnian War in the 1990s — and other opponents testify about a bill that would soften criminal penalties for marijuana possession, allow for hemp oil to treat seizures and promote industrial hemp research. State senators heard from proponents of the measure on Wednesday.

The testimony came on the eve of an anticipated Kansas Supreme Court ruling on the legality of a voter-approved Wichita ordinance relaxing penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The court is expected to decide Friday whether to strike down the ordinance because it conflicts with state law. The case has been closely watched by activists in other Kansas communities.

In tearful testimony on Thursday, Schwab said that he moved to Colorado to gain access to medical marijuana that remains illegal in Kansas. He added that the section of the bill allowing for medical hemp preparations to treat seizures was “not enough,” so he testified against it.

Several other opponents echoed Schwab’s concerns that the bill did not encompass their ailments, which ranged from chronic pain to depression. The dissenters said that a broader version of the measure could reverse rampant abuse of prescription drugs.

Law enforcement representatives differed with the veterans, saying that the bill would be a gateway to medical marijuana usage. Ed Klumpp, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, said that the loose restrictions on the measure posed as a public safety threat.

“These bills tend to be a precursor to the broader legalization of marijuana,” Klumpp said.

He added that the bill would increase costs for crime labs and create a need for more personnel to differentiate the usage of medical marijuana from recreational.

Committee Chairman Greg Smith, an Overland Park Republican, said that the senators would continue discussing the bill next week.