Friday, September 21, 2007

Former Attorney General to push for medical marijuana

By Tim Carpenter
The Capital-Journal
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Former Kansas state Attorney General Robert Stephan plans to speak out Friday about what he believes is the need to legalize the medical consumption of marijuana in Kansas.

The state's chief law enforcement officer from 1979 to 1995 will participate in a news conference in the Statehouse hosted by Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition, which seeks legal protection for patients who use marijuana as part of a treatment program and for physicians who recommend the drug to patients.

Robert Stephan to appear with a coaliton on Friday.

Laura Green, director of the coalition, said in an interview Tuesday that laws relating to medicinal use of marijuana are on the books in more than 30 states. A dozen states rigidly shield patients from prosecution when consuming cannabis for medical purposes.

Consumption of marijuana is illegal under Kansas law. The first conviction is a misdemeanor, and subsequent convictions are felonies.

"There is no medical marijuana defense in Kansas," Green said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory in 2006 against marijuana consumption for medical purposes.

The document stated the drug has "a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use treatment in the United States and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision."

"Furthermore," the FDA says, "there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful."

Advocates of the therapeutic use of pot point to research findings indicating the drug is helpful in pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation. It is consumed by people undergoing chemotherapy or grappling with AIDS.

Stephan, a Republican who battled cancer in the past, will offer at the news conference "his personal history of the issue," Green said.

Green said no specific legislation would be proposed at this point. The objective is to get the issue on the policy radar for the 2008 Legislature. Lawmakers convene the annual session in January.

On Wednesday, spokeswomen for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Paul Morrison, both Democrats, said neither politician had endorsed medical use of marijuana.

"We stand prepared to enforce the law according to what the Legislature decides," said Morrison spokeswoman Frances Gorman.

Nicole Corcoran, who represents the governor, said Sebelius hadn't discussed the issue in terms of state policy.

Tim Carpenter can be reached at (785) 295-1158 or