- Associated Press - Friday, January 17, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - David Mulford says he is alive today because of the marijuana he used to combat a host of physical problems, including diabetes, diabetic neuropathy and crippling muscle cramps.

He used it in the form of oil that he injected into capsules. The goal was not to get high, but to get some relief, he said.

“It was a miracle. An absolute miracle,” he said.

Mulford, 55, who is disabled and living in Hutchinson, thinks that the law legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado, which went into effect Jan. 1, could boost efforts to finally pass a bill aimed at legalizing it in Kansas for medicinal use.

Not that his expectations are raised, given the political realities in Topeka, he said. But Mulford, who has testified before lawmakers on behalf of such legislation in the past, is eager to try again this year.

“What we’re asking is that they listen to us, that we’re allowed to present our evidence, that they allow us to make our argument, and then go from there,” he said.

Bills providing for the controlled, doctor-approved use of marijuana for medical reasons have failed to reach the floors of the Kansas House or Senate in recent years. But Colorado has offered their sponsors a sliver of hope.

Rep. Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat who has tried to advance a medical marijuana bill in the House since 2009, said she is more optimistic this year.

“It seems like the legalization of marijuana in Colorado has energized a lot of Kansans,” she said.

Another sign of hope for her: House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, won’t block efforts to move a medical marijuana bill in the House. Former Speaker Mike O’Neal once told Finney such a bill would never see the light of day as long as he was speaker, she said.

Merrick, through a spokesperson, acknowledged that he won’t stand in the way.

“The speaker is personally not in favor of medical marijuana,” Rachel Whitten, Merrick’s communications director, wrote in an e-mail to The Eagle. “However, any member who wishes to introduce a bill and have it go through the committee process is welcome to do so.”

Mr. Merrick is an upstanding representative,” Finney said. “If that’s what he says, I believe him. Kansas ought to at least, at a very minimum, have an open discussion.”

Finney’s previous attempts have gone nowhere.

“It’s just an unending thing,” said Finney, who has undergone chemotherapy for lupus. “When you start talking about people’s lives, it’s really discouraging.”

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