Government & Politics

Kansas House approves bill on CBD oil with THC for people with debilitating conditions

Two weeks ago, Scott and Gwen Hartley stood before Kansas lawmakers and begged them to make it easier for people with severe medical conditions to use marijuana-derived oil containing THC, the chemical that produces a high.

The Hartleys lost their 17-year-old daughter, Claire, in December. She suffered from a variety of conditions, including cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

“I guess the most disappointing thing for me is that we weren’t able to try the low THC CBD oil with her,” Scott Hartley told lawmakers. “I know it would have helped her with some of the struggles in her life and it would help so many other kids, too.”

The House voted 89-35 Wednesday to pass a bill that provides protections in court for parents like the Hartleys who want to give CBD oil with up to 5 percent THC to their children. It gives those same protections to adults with debilitating conditions who want to use CBD oil with THC.

The bill says that individuals charged with possessing CBD oil with THC could defend themselves in court by showing they have a severe medical condition and that they’re using the CBD oil for their condition.

The House approved the bill amid growing discussion of medical marijuana among Kansas lawmakers. Some lawmakers contend the proposal represents a move toward eventual legalization.

The bill is named for Claire and the Hartleys’ 12-year-old daughter, Lola, who has conditions similar to Claire. The legislation must still pass the Senate before going to Gov. Laura Kelly for action.

Supporters of CBD oil with THC say it can help reduce seizures and serve as a more natural pain reliever.

But the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, law enforcement associations and the Kansas Medical Society have lined up in opposition. They say the bill would be difficult to enforce and that CBD oil with THC lacks federal approval for medical use.

That hasn’t stopped parents of children with chronic conditions and advocates from cheering the House vote.

“We’re really excited and I think that this bill is going to impact a lot of people on a huge level,” said Brianna Baskerville, the parent of a child with an autoimmune disorder and muscular dystrophy who says her child would benefit from CBD oil with THC.

The bill would prohibit the Department for Children and Families from attempting to remove a child from their home solely because of the parent or child’s use of CBD oil.

The bill also allows individuals charged with possessing CBD oil with THC to show they or their children have a debilitating disease as an affirmative defense in court. The individual would also need to show a letter from a physician that indicates the person’s diagnosis.

House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, voted against the bill. He said all the legislation does is create an affirmative defense, adding it “doesn’t really move the needle.”

“That’s all it did. So why wouldn’t we have done something that’s actually a solution to the problem instead of something that’s just a band-aid or something,” Hawkins said.

But supporters of the bill embrace its limited scope.

Rep. Susan Humphries, R-Wichita, said Kansans still won’t be able to buy CBD oil with THC or sell it or manufacture it.

“CBD oil is a remedy,” Humphries said. “It’s a medical treatment that many families in Kansas would like to use for their children with debilitating diseases or their selves.”

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says it doesn’t have the lab equipment needed to test THC levels in CBD oil. Purchasing the needed equipment would cost at least $257,860, it says.

Ed Klumpp, a lobbyist for several Kansas law enforcement associations, said officers have the ability to detect if THC is present in CBD oil but aren’t able to tell if the concentration is above or below 5 percent.

“We certainly don’t want to be in the position where the Legislature has said we want this to be available for these people with these illnesses and then we take that from them to have it tested because we think it’s over 5 percent and it’s not – and we’re the bad guy,” Klumpp said.

The proposal isn’t a done deal. It’s unclear when or if the Senate will consider it.

Baskerville said she has “all the faith in the world” that it will eventually be approved.

Klumpp said just because a bill passes one chamber, it doesn’t mean that’s what the Legislature will end up approving. He said his associations will keep raising their concerns.

“Ultimately, it’s a policy decision they need to make,” Klumpp said.

Jonathan Shorman covers Kansas politics and the Legislature for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. He’s been covering politics for six years, first in Missouri and now in Kansas. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.