The late Clair Hartley and her disabled sister Lola could be the face of a Kansas bill granting individuals with a debilitating condition the legal standing to avoid prosecution for possession of an oil with less than 5 percent of marijuana's intoxicating ingredient.
A bipartisan majority of a Kansas House committee endorsed a bill that if passed would be known as "Claire and Lola's law." It would lower a legal obstacle for people using low-THC oils to care for profoundly ill people who have been unable to find relief with pharmaceutical medications. The oils shielded by the Kansas bill could contain no more than 5 percent THC.
"This is a substance that you really can't abuse in the way we're thinking in that if you drink the CBD oil you're going to be so sick," said Rep. Susan Humphries, R-Wichita.
She said dosages were administered in drops and a single bottle of the oil could last for weeks.
Rep. Emil Bergquist, R-Park City, said House Bill 2244 was a prescription for abuse by people drawn to marijuana and would place law enforcement officers in the tricky position of making on-the-spot determinations about arresting people in possession of oils testing positive for THC but at an unknown concentration.
"The nature of the discussion we're having shows you how many holes there are in this situation for the state of Kansas," he said.
The bill would prohibit state agencies from initiating child-removal proceedings or child-protection actions based solely on a parent's or child's use or possession of a 5 percent cannabidiol treatment oil.
It also would provide those in possession of this oil an opportunity to argue in city or state court against prosecution because the substance was treatment of a medical condition. The applicable health status would be a diagnosed chronic disease, serious impairment of strength or ability to function, including one that produced seizures.
To take up an "affirmative defense" in court, a person would need a letter dated within the preceding 15 months and signed by a licensed physician who diagnosed the targeted medical condition. The document must identify the person or minor child as a patient and would have to outline the patient’s condition.
Benton residents Gwen and Scott Hartley, parents of Claire and Lola, who were both born with profound special medical needs, urged the House Judiciary Committee to back the bill. Lola Hartley passed away in December, and Gwen Hartley said she was desperate to try unorthodox methods of caring for Lola, who cannot tolerate typical pharmaceuticals for cerebral palsy, seizures, dwarfism, scoliosis and other challenges.
"Help me save our daughter's life so we don't have to bury yet another child," Gwen Hartley said. "It would mean the world to us."
Specifically, the Hartleys said the oil might help Lola reduce her seizures, improve her muscle tone and accelerate her cognitive development.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the representative for three Kansas law enforcement associations were opposed to the bill.
"CBD oils with levels with THC as described in this bill are illegal under federal law," said Ed Klumpp, who represents sheriffs and police chief organizations. "We are headed down a slippery slope when we start deciding what treatments are effective and safe by legislation rather than scientific study."
Provisions of the House bill wouldn't protect a Kansan from being arrested, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced in federal court for possession of a controlled substance.
Rep. Mark Samsel, a Wellsville Republican who voted for the legislation, said a poll of his House district showed 82 percent supported legalization of medicinal marijuana, 66 percent favored decriminalization of nonviolent marijuana possession and 39 percent endorsed legalization of recreational marijuana.
"I consider my job to vote for my district," he said.
There is legitimate concern claims affiliated with CBD oils may be inflated by people struggling with complex health issues, said Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita. At the same time, he said, the federal government's war on drugs had undermined meaningful research and development of marijuana byproducts.
"I'm not willing to say, 'No,' to these people," said Carmichael, who voted for the bill.