Topeka Jill Lane traveled from Great Bend Wednesday so she could testify in Topeka in favor of a bill that would give her access to medicine that many believe could relieve her son Trenton of a debilitating seizure disorder.
"I teach in a Catholic school," she said. "My principal, my priest, they are behind us and they want this bill. They want whatever will help these children."
Trenton, she said, suffers from a rare brain malformation called lissencephaly, or "smooth brain." She said the condition has left him unable to speak, walk, talk, crawl or do basic movements on his own. And it causes him to have severe, persistent seizures, sometimes multiple times a day.
Lane said she and her husband have tried many other therapies, starting with high doses of steroids and what she called a "cocktail of benzodiazepine drugs," which are used for a variety of neurological disorders, to control the seizures.
Those drugs, however, can have serious side effects, and her son could die if given too much or too little of the medication.
The medicine she wants to try, however, is one not currently allowed in Kansas and, in fact, is banned under federal law. That drug is hemp, a form of cannabis that is closely related to marijuana, but which has only a small fraction of the active ingredient THC that causes people to get high when they smoke marijuana.
The bill before the House Health and Human Services Committee would authorize the use of hemp for treatment of certain medical conditions, including the kind of seizure disorder afflicting Trenton Lane.
Rep. John Wilson, a Lawrence Democrat, is pushing the bill, as he has done each of the last three years.
The bill would authorize the establishment of "hemp preparation centers" that could grow the plant, process it into consumable materials such as oil extracts, and dispense it to patients. Those centers would be regulated by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Physicians still could not prescribe hemp treatments because the federal government still classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug. But they would be allowed to issue registration cards, which would also be regulated by KDHE, indicating that a patient has a medical condition that qualifies him or her to receive hemp treatment.
Wilson noted that in January, the National Academy of Sciences published a review of research conducted since 1999 on the medical uses of cannabis and found "conclusive evidence" that certain oral byproducts were effective in treating and preventing chronic pain for adult cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
It also said there was "substantial evidence" to suggest it may have other therapeutic effects, while it said there was only "limited evidence" to suggest it has more serious negative impacts.
Still, a number of people testified against the bill, including Dawn Brooks, a medical marijuana advocate who said she the bill was drafted poorly.
She said the bill limits the THC content of the plants to no more than 3 percent, but it does not regulate other active substances in the plant, nor does it regulate the dosages that patients should take.
"Can you tell me what the correct treating dose of medical cannabis is for any of the conditions listed in the bill?" she asked. "Can you tell me if there's a regulated or specified training in this bill for prescribing this medication? ... If you do not regulate this process, you are leaving a great area for errors and issues."
Ed Klumpp, who lobbies for a number of law enforcement associations, said the bill also could present problems for police.
Most notably, he said, the bill regulates the THC content, but it does not regulate a substance called cannabidiol, CBD, the substance within cannabis that is thought to have therapeutic properties.
"You could literally have 3 percent THC oil with no CBDs, and it would meet this bill, and that is a very critical area that makes us suspect that of whether this is really a CBD oil bill or a medical marijuana bill," Klumpp said. "Our stand on legalizing marijuana — medical marijuana or other purposes — has always been that if it's for medical purposes, we think it should be done through pharmacies and doctors writing prescriptions."
The committee took no action on the bill Wednesday. A similar bill passed out of the House last year, but eventually died in the Kansas Senate.