Week 2:  Marijuana, 2nd Amendment, Life & More  

Dear , 


Our work in committees heated up considerably, the annual pro-life rally was held on the capitol steps, numerous pieces of legislation were introduced and there was an increase in discussion about the budget, taxes and education along with other issues.   Below, I'll address some of these subjects, providing a bit more detail about the marijuana hearing, the ban on dismemberment abortions and the right to constitutional carry.

Marijuana Hearing


In the Public Health & Welfare Committee, of which I am chairman, we held two days of informational hearings on marijuana. The first day included a number of parents from Wichita asking legislators to legalize cannabis oil, a derivative of marijuana. Four parents testified on behalf of their children who suffer from severe seizure disorders.   The parents, who said they had tried a number of legal forms of medication, saw cannabis as a last resort.  It was heartbreaking to witness their struggles and I will continue to look into this problem to see if there are paths to any solutions.


Dr. Eric Voth, a physician specialist for thirty years in Internal Medicine, pain management and Addiction Medicine, testified against changing laws regarding marijuana.  Dr. Voth was strongly supported by the Kansas Medical Society in his testimony and he is recognized as an international authority on drug use as he holds the position of chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, a think tank that contains some of the world's top experts on marijuana. 


Because this subject is so controversial and the media typically only provides a certain view, I will give you more information on this subject and try to summarize Dr. Voth's remarks.  Eventually, I hope to provide an Internet address where you will be able to access all the testimony.


Dr. Voth said the support for marijuana as medicine is largely driven by emotion and individual observations that are not borne out by scientific research. Current research suggests the medical effects of marijuana are marginal if not actually negative.


He insisted that marijuana itself is not a benign recreational drug. Instead of being a stable and predictable compound like we would demand with other medication, the THC content of marijuana varies from an average of 12% to around 30% and even as high as 80% with hash oil variants, being at least five to ten times as powerful as marijuana used in the 1960's and 70's. It is often hallucinogenic and toxic and while it does not cause overdose deaths because of the specific areas of the brain that it affects, it has serious toxic and long term effects. It creates problems with memory, concentration, cognitive function, executive functioning, school performance, and intellectual skills. Recent research has demonstrated numerous structural brain changes as well as actual reductions in IQ of between 6-9% over twenty years of use. As a smoked drug, it damages the lungs. Its use is associated with violence and spousal/domestic/dating abuse. More recent research has demonstrated that one of its espoused medical applications, PTSD, is actually worsened with increased violent behavior. Its use is associated with birth and developmental abnormalities and is now also associated with acute psychotic episodes, initiation of bipolar illness, depression, and anxiety.


States allowing medicinal or legal recreational marijuana have experienced huge rises in marijuana use, doubling of marijuana-related traffic fatalities, increases in crime, and increases in adolescent marijuana use with states allowing medicinal use being consistently higher than in other states. Since the passage of marijuana legalization but prior to its implementation in Colorado, marijuana use in adolescents is 72% higher than the national average. Colorado has experienced massive increases in homeless marijuana users moving into the state and has seen drastic increases in child poisonings from edible forms of marijuana.


Investigational New Drug Trials currently exist through the FDA to study marijuana and its derivatives in closely supervised research environments. This allows individual marijuana-like substances to be identified, isolated, or synthesized and developed for medical uses. THC is already available as a prescription medicine (Marinol), and there are other medicines based on marijuana being developed (Sativex and Epidiolex). 

Constitutional Carry


Significant legislation introduced this session will guarantee citizens a greater ability to exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Currently, Kansans can legally carry a firearm openly as long as that individual is not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm. Under SB 45, a law abiding citizen could carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Other states with this type of law are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Vermont and Wyoming. Of course, citizens would still have the option of acquiring a concealed weapon permit for purposes of interstate reciprocity or to expedite the background searches for firearm purchases. 


Carrying a gun is a grave responsibility and it should be taken seriously.  Anyone who carries a gun should know the law and have education, training and experience to know how to use their firearm in a responsible manner. People should be held accountable for their actions. However, Americans do not just have a basic right to defend themselves; they have an innate right to "own and bear arms." That is the reason citizens should be able to carry a firearm openly or concealed without having to jump through hoops created by government. This is not a privilege bestowed by government, like driving is.  This is a constitutional right of the individual which is to be protected by government.


A person with a criminal mind is not concerned with getting a permit, nor is concerned with the firearm laws. The law abiding citizen has a right to keep and bear arms as a defense against these criminals. 


For FAQ's on the proposed legislation you may find them here as a courtesy from the Kansas State Rifle Association: http://tinyurl.com/KSStateRifleAssociation


The Revenue Situation

Much has been made in the press about the budget situation we face in Topeka.  Reports do not give you an accurate portrayal of the information we had at the time, which was that revenues were increasing and projections pointed to a revenue situation which would put us in a better position than we currently are in now.  As you can see by the chart below, those estimates were in error.



The assumptions made by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, a non-partisan entity, did not factor in the natural human action of selling assets prior to the federal government's increase of the capital gains tax.  One-time tax revenue was used to estimate a trend when none existed.  Revenue and ending balances were not forecast accurately.  Other states had large unexpected downturns too.  Kansas was not alone. 


The governor's response is to slow down the speed of the tax reductions, keeping the current tax level for the higher bracket and reducing the lower bracket from 2.7 to 2.66 percent on January 1, 2016.  Then tax reductions would occur through a Tax Reduction Fund if future revenues exceed 103 percent of the previous year and the Legislature votes for it, with the governor allowing the legislation to pass into law.


For those of us who would like to get to 0% income tax as fast as possible, this is frustrating.  I am confident there will be other suggestions to consider as the session moves along.  In the meantime, it is good to keep in mind due to the tax cuts already implemented, our income tax rates are quite competitive with our immediate neighbors - and Kansans all across our state, including small businesses that need to compete and are now tax-free, are enjoying the benefits of lower taxes.


A Tidbit on Education


Soon after the governor announced his plan for block grants instead of sending out money through the school finance formula, the Kansas Department of Education released documentation claiming there would be a $127 million cut to education funding.  This is deceptive and misleading because it doesn't give all the information.


Last year, the State Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to equalize funding to Kansas public schools. The Legislature added $130 million for that purpose.  Abiding by the court's ruling also meant that when a school district increased its LOB, more funds would have to be sent to other school districts with the amount being determined by the equalization factor.


Therefore, when several school districts this summer increased their LOB, it caused another $60 million dollars to be added to the original $130 million in equalization funding. The addition was not directly appropriated by the Legislature, and the governor did not add it in his budget proposal for block grant funding in the FY2016 budget.  However, the Department of Education is using that funding in its calculations, claiming education funding was cut, when in reality it was an increase in funding never received.


These funding deceptions need to stop, but they will continue when the school finance formula is so complicated that it can be used as a tool to deceive the public.  It is way past time for the Legislature to start demanding transparency and predictability for education funding so that Kansas citizens can be informed about what is happening with the largest segment of the state budget. 


Standing for Life 

This past Thursday, January 22nd, was the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. There were hundreds of Kansas citizens who came to the Topeka Capitol for a rally organized by Kansans for Life, to demand protection for the life of unborn human beings.  Governor Brownback, Lt. Governor Colyer and a number of state legislators, including me, attended the rally.


We have made progress to protect the unborn in Kansas the past four years and it will continue this session.  For several years, I have wanted to pursue legislation that would outlaw dismemberment - the tearing apart of unborn humans.  I am pleased there will soon be a bill introduced by Garrett Love to ban this horrific practice.

If you can stomach it, here is a video of a physician who was a former abortion provider explaining the method used.  Dr. Anthony Levatino should be highly commended for his courage in explaining the procedure he now deeply regrets.  

This procedure is common in a second trimester abortion.  Approximately 600 children die by this method in Kansas every year.  I'm sorry to be so graphic, but that's more than 11 horrendous abortions every week, where a living unborn child's arms and legs are torn off as death slowly follows.  It's hard to believe this still happens in our country.


Kansas Jobs

Kansas's December unemployment rate remained unchanged from the November number at 4.2% but was down 0.7% from the December 2013 unemployment rate of 4.9%. Kansas added 12,800 private sector jobs since last year, and Kansas nonfarm jobs increased by 12,800 jobs. Kansas has the tenth lowest unemployment in the nation, and more Kansans are working than at any time in our history.


The graphs below (larger versions can be viewed here on my website) demonstrate the unemployment rate and private sector job growth from January 2011 to December 2014. The full report can be viewed by clicking here.





The Kansas Republican Convention


The State Party Convention/Kansas Days will be held next weekend January 30 - 31st in Topeka at the Capitol Plaza Hotel. Guest speakers include: Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Representative Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma), and Representative Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina). For event tickets visit this link.  






Our work continues the next week as we continue to have hearings and eventually push legislation to the floor to be considered.   I am pleased to see so many good people writing me on particular issues - I am working on replies as we speak to your inquiries and comments.  


Thank you.

In honor of your liberty,

Mary Pilcher-Cook

Mary Pilcher Cook


Working in honor of your liberty.
Contact me today!