Area legislators who attended a Legislative Update last Thursday at the Great Bend Events Center were asked to talk about legalizing medical marijuana.
An audience member thanked Rep. Troy Waymaster (R-Bunker Hill) for his “yes” vote on a House bill that passed 79-42, asked Rep. Tory Marie Arnberger (R-Great Bend) to explain her “no” vote, and asked Sen. Alicia Straub (R-Ellinwood) “could you please respond to my email.” Rep. Brett Fairchild (R-St. John) was also at the meeting and spoke as well.
After the Kansas House of Representatives approved a bill to establish a medical marijuana program in the state the bill headed to the Senate, but the issue did not make it out of committee. Republican leaders signaled the Senate wouldn’t consider the bill in the final days of the legislative session, according to the Associated Press.
“I voted against medical marijuana simply because I saw a lot of loopholes in the bill,” Arnberger said. “You could smoke it, because you could go to a dispensary and go buy buds, and you could go home and smoke it.” Recreational drug users could buy a dispensary bag on the black market and if a green substance was found in their vehicle they could claim it was legal, she said.
“I just had a really tough time with that. At the same time, you could go home and make your own edibles, which I don’t think is the right thing to do.”
Arnberger said she struggled with the bill because she knows medical marijuana can be beneficial. The committee heard from an Odin mom, Kiley Klug, whose 13-year-old son Owen has a rare form of epilepsy and gets up to 100 seizures a day. Kiley and her husband Gavin Klug have appealed to the Legislature for years to reform hemp and marijuana laws to allow for the treatment of medical conditions.
Claire and Lola’s Law, which went into effect in 2019, has allowed Owen to use CBD oil with up to 5 percent THC in it, which has helped his seizures.
“All of us know Kiley Klug and we all know Owen Klug,” Arnberger said. However, “I just had a really tough time voting against law enforcement and finding these loopholes.
“One thing I did like about the bill though was that it was as conservative or more conservative than any other state. I don’t want us to be like Oklahoma with medical marijuana because they’re a joke down there.”
Arnberger said she was on the committee that worked on the bill and she did vote for it to move out of committee so the House could vote on the issue. “I felt everybody should have the right to vote on it.”
She said she is also working with a group of conservative lawmakers who voted against the bill but are interested in crafting a better law, similar to the Claire and Lola’s Law, for legal medical marijuana.
“The train’s coming; we know it’s coming. So how do we take this plan and maybe tweak it a little bit better?” Arnberger said. “We do know that the Senate does want to take it up. The senate does want to take up medical marijuana.”
Straub said medical marijuana was never brought to the floor in the Senate and she doesn’t serve on the committees where it may have been heard. As for emails, Straub told the audience member that her “dot-gov” email address, Alicia.Straub@senate.ks.gov, “is somewhat of a black hole. Most of the emails we receive are form letters, and we just get inundated with emails on – everything. So if it was not something that was coming to a vote and it was not something that we were working on in the Senate, I’m sorry if I did not reply to your email.”
She said to use the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. “If you send it to that email address, I will get it. In fact, it will be right here on my phone. But I don’t have my dot-gov email address attached to my phone because I don’t trust government — and I’m part of it!”
Straub said she voted for the Claire and Lola law and added, “I do support medical marijuana, if it is done correctly. But we have a lot of work to do to make sure that it’s done correctly.” In other states, medical marijuana had led to recreational marijuana, she said, adding, “I don’t want to see that in Kansas.”
Straub concluded, “I’m not opposed to it. I just think it’s something that we really need to do our research and do right, so thank you for your input. And please email me.”
Fairchild said he voted for the medical marijuana bill in the House and after it passed it was delivered to the Senate.
“They’re probably not going to work on it until next year,” he said. “But if you look at what we’ve done in the Legislature over the past year, we’ve probably passed five to 10 bills to expand alcohol sales here in Kansas. Of course, there’s no medical benefit to alcohol, it’s purely recreational.” It doesn’t seem logical to him that the Legislature can’t pass a medical marijuana bill. “Alcohol has zero medical benefits. Marijuana has hundreds of medical benefits. It’s a plant that God created as part of his creation. You know, it’s something that has all kinds of different medical benefits for people and is not nearly as harmful as alcohol is. And so I’m hopeful that we can get that passed next year.”