In December 2022, hospital staff in Hays, Kansas reported a terminally ill cancer patient to police for use of a cannabis vape pen.
In late December 2022, police officers issued a citation for a drug violation to 69-year-old Greg Bretz and removed his vaping pen and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) paste, which had been confiscated by hospital staff (1). Bretz had been using the cannabis products in the hospital to cope with the symptoms of his terminal, inoperable cancer. The drug possession ticket was later dismissed.
“You’d think they would have shown a lot more compassion and not done anything,” said Lee Bretz, Greg Bretz’s son (2). “He can’t make it to court. He’s bedridden. He can’t move his legs.”
A local television station in Kansas reported that the news of the situation, which had gone viral online, purportedly led to alleged threats against the hospital and police (2).
“As a police officer, we don’t determine what the law is,” said Hays police chief Don Scheibler (2). “I think the discussion about medical marijuana needs to happen.”
“It is traumatic enough to be dying of cancer – it is absolutely unconscionable to add on, for no reason beyond fealty to a losing drug war, the added trauma of being arrested,” said Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a cannabis specialist (1). “While cannabis hasn’t yet been shown to ‘cure’ cancer in humans, it is spectacularly effective for the ravages of chemotherapy – the nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite – as well as the pain, anxiety and insomnia that almost always accompany the experience of a terminal cancer.”
Though Kansas does have a medical cannabis program, medical cannabis advocacy is still needed across the country, according to Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s largest nonprofit that represents medical cannabis patients, doctors, and researchers. “On paper, it looks like medical cannabis policy is doing well,” said ASA’s founder and president Steph Sherer in a recent blog (3). “But on the ground, we see medical cannabis programs corroding alongside adult-use programs, fewer bills passing to improve state medical cannabis programs, millions of people still left without access, and a lack of movement for federal protections.”