Medical marijuana measure goes to full Senate without provision authorizing medicinal hemp oil

Members of the Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee led by committee chairman Sen. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, second from left, sent bills to the Senate floor Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, to lessen penalties for marijuana possession and allow individuals with epilepsy to try hemp oil. (Thad Allton/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

? A bill that would lower the penalties for first- and second-time marijuana possession is headed to the full Kansas Senate, but without other provisions that would have authorized the medicinal use of hemp oil to treat certain seizure disorders.

Members of the Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee on Tuesday stripped out the medical hemp oil provision and inserted it into another bill, with hopes that it will be studied as a separate issue by a different committee.

That came as disappointing news for Tiffany Krenz of Topeka, who testified last week in favor of the bill. She is the mother of an 11-year-old boy, J.J., who suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a catastrophic form of epilepsy, and who might benefit from hemp oil treatment.

“I am grateful that the committee has at least referred it and didn’t kill it here. There’s a lot of work to be done,” Krenz said. “It’s hard to listen to some of the reasons why they chose not to keep this bill intact because there is research on both sides. I do understand that. But we’re stuck in a place where there’s nothing left for our son.”

The hemp oil provision was added to the bill last year in the House as an amendment onto the bill reducing criminal penalties for simple possession.

Rep. John Wilson, D-Lawrence, was the sponsor of that provision, which he calls Otis’ Law, named after another child with a seizure disorder. It would have authorized the use of hemp oil, a nonintoxicating oil derived from the seeds of hemp plants that some research has shown to be effective in reducing both the frequency and severity of seizures in patients with epilepsy and related disorders.

Rep. John Wilson

“I’m disappointed that we’re not taking immediate action on Otis’ Law, and yet I’m also appreciative that the chair has created another avenue for us to explore,” Wilson said.

Several committee members, including Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, expressed reservations about passing such a bill because hemp oil has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of any medical condition.

“I very much worry about creating a path through the state Legislature that circumvents the FDA, that circumvents the very important and very rigorous processes through which we normally test drugs and supplements are used to try to help those who are suffering the most,” King said. “I hope the health committee takes this up. And I hope when they do take it up, they look strongly at authorizing and encouraging FDA test-university research to be done in Kansas, and help those Kansans who are suffering to qualify for those tests, and to go through all the proper and rigorous testing procedures we need to ensure that hemp oil is pure, safe and effective, but making sure Kansans who need it have the greatest access possible.”

Also stripped out of the bill was a provision authorizing the Kansas Department of Agriculture to engage in research on industrial uses of hemp.

The remaining, original portion of the bill would reduce first-time possession of marijuana from a Class A to a Class B misdemeanor. Second-time possession would be reduced from a low-level felony to a Class A misdemeanor.

Officials from the Kansas Sentencing Commission testified in favor of that measure, saying it would eventually reduce the state’s prison population by about 100 inmates, saving the state more than $1 million in prison costs.