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Kansas Narrowly Rejects Medical Marijuana

State legislators in Kansas narrowly rejected a proposal to allow medical marijuana on Monday, but the closeness of the vote gave hope to backers of the idea.

The proposal fell on a 54-69 vote in the Kansas House, following a long, sometimes emotional debate.

“Today was the most legislative discussion we have ever had in three years of the Kansas Safe Access Act,” Lisa Sublett, founder and president of Bleeding Kansas Advocates, a pro-legalization group, told the Kansas City Star.

Backers of medical marijuana did have a victory as well, however. After rejecting full legalization of medical marijuana, the House did give initial approval to a separate bill that would make CBD, or cannabidiol, legal. The cannabis extract is used by some medical marijuana patients, but doesn’t contain THC, the ingredient in full marijuana that produces the “high.” That bill was expected to get a final vote in the House on Tuesday, but would still need Senate approval.

Cannabidiol, in the form of CBD oils, had been sold by some outlets in Kansas until recently, when the state’s attorney general, Derek Schmidt, released an opinion that said selling CBD was illegal.

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The proposal for full medical marijuana legalization was an amendment to a bill dealing with which drugs are listed as controlled substances in Kansas. The amendment’s author, Rep. Cindy Holscher, said her daughter suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, but that her medication has bad side effects of the medication she takes for it, methotrexate. Why, Holscher asked, shouldn’t her daughter be able to try another drug that is legal in many other places.

Rep. Abraham Rafie, a physician from Overland Park voted against the amendment because, he said, the science behind medical marijuana is mixed.

Rafie acknowledged evidence that marijuana could be effective in treating nausea and pain and possibly preventing seizures. But he also noted reports of increased recreational youth of marijuana and marijuana-related car accidents in Colorado, where cannabis has been legalized. He said more needs to be known.

“There’s a lot of motivated reasoning here,” Rafie said. “There’s a lot of motivation to find what each side wants to see in the data. … This policy is very premature.”

Several House members said they were sympathetic to medical marijuana advocates, but thought the idea should be presented as a stand-alone bill, and allowed to go through the committee process so members could have more time to study the issue and hear from supporters and opponents in the community.

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