Medical marijuana: Masterson callously opposes Gov. Kelly’s effort to ease suffering | Opinion

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I’ve been in Kansas a long time and seen a lot of State of the State speeches.

I don’t ever remember seeing one where the governor called for legalization of medicinal marijuana. On Tuesday night, Gov. Laura Kelly did that powerfully and eloquently.

“In 39 other states, Americans with chronic pain, seizure disorders, and PTSD can access medical marijuana to relieve their suffering,” the governor said. “But, despite the fact that a very clear majority of physicians believe medical marijuana should be part of a comprehensive pain management and palliative care plan, it’s still illegal here in Kansas.”

The governor cited two examples of the suffering the state’s causing its residents, both of which were brought to you via The Wichita Eagle Opinion section.

The first was a man whose story I told you about in December. The week before Christmas, Greg Bretz was busted by Hays police in his hospital room and issued a criminal citation for drug possession.

His “crime”? Using marijuana extracts to ease the pain of the cancer that would kill him about three weeks later.

To quote Kelly: “He was then ordered to appear in court — despite not being able to get out of bed. We all know that was ridiculous. This is not to blame the police — the police were just enforcing the law. That means the law itself is ridiculous.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Hays police and prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges, but Bretz spent the last Christmas of his life stressed and worried that he’d die under the cloud of outstanding criminal charges. That shouldn’t happen.

The other example the governor cited was a guest column I ran shortly after I became your opinion editor.

It was written by David Auble, another dying man pleading with the Legislature to let him use marijuana products to ease his pain.

Mr. Auble was a U.S. Army veteran, lifelong Republican and conservative, who proudly voted for Donald Trump for president.

A few weeks before his death, his face and throat swollen to frightening proportions, he wrote: “Some friends have suggested that I just go ahead and get cannabis and not worry about ramifications. But that’s not who I am. I don’t intend to break the law even though my situation is growing more severe.”

To legislators, he issued this challenge: “If you can’t make decisions for the good of the people, then you shouldn’t be making decisions at all.”

Speaking of people who shouldn’t be making decisions, let’s go to Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover.

There appears to be plenty of support for medical marijuana in the Legislature, which after all would only put Kansas on par with neighboring deep-red states like Oklahoma and Nebraska. But Masterson’s not a fan and, as Senate president, he gets to say what bills get a vote in his chamber.

His response to the governor’s call for legalizing medical marijuana was as callous as it gets.

In an impromptu press conference after the speech, he called the Hays case an “interesting example” but said “she (Kelly) is trying to get marijuana to a guy that couldn’t breathe.”

For the record, Mr. Bretz was still breathing when police invaded his hospital room. He wasn’t on oxygen and he ate his THC paste on bread.

But Masterson doesn’t care.

“There is a role for potential palliative care, there’s gonna be bills, there’s gonna be hearings,” he said. “I’m not going to be shamed into doing it from some bad examples.”

Suffering, dying people are “bad examples”? In what world?

The only bad example here is Ty Masterson — a bad example of a state legislator and frankly, a bad example of a human being to be that cruelly and crudely dismissive of other people’s suffering.

For my part, I am very proud to have been able to bring you the stories of Greg Bretz and David Auble.

To Masterson and the legislators who back him, I would say this: If you live long enough, someday, you’re going to be Greg Bretz or David Auble.

You’ll be flat on your back in a hospital room, in pain, wishing you could get some relief and spend a few last days with your loved ones, instead of being drugged into unconsciousness on opiates.

And you’ll look back at Jan. 24, 2023, and say “I wish I’d done more when I could.”