The Silver Haired Legislature, which advocates for senior citizens, will again urge the Kansas Legislature to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

In meetings Oct. 6-9 in Topeka that follow a procedure similar to the Kansas Legislature, representatives held hearings, debated and adopted three bills that will be introduced in the next term and four resolutions they will encourage legislators to consider.

SHL Bill 3204 is similar to SB 9, introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare, where it remained at the end of the 2015 session. If enacted, the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act would authorize Kansas citizens with certain debilitating medical conditions to be prescribed cannabis (marijuana) for medicinal purposes by their physicians.

The SHL bill cites the following:

• Medical research has discovered beneficial uses for marijuana in treating or alleviating the pain, nausea and other symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating medical conditions, as found by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine in 1999.

• Subsequent studies continue to show the therapeutic value of marijuana in treating a wide array of conditions, including increasing the chances of patients finishing their treatments for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

• Although federal law currently prohibits any use of marijuana except under very limited circumstances, 19 states and the District of Columbia, have removed state-level criminal penalties for the medical use and cultivation of marijuana.

• State law should make a distinction between medical and non-medical use and protect patients using marijuana for medicinal purposes, their physicians and their providers.

The SHL will continue to support a carryover bill from 2014, dealing with a proposal for more stringent controls on the predatory practices prevalent in the Payday Loan industry, which it considers to be aimed at senior citizens.

SHL Bill 3201 declares support to maintain or increase state funding for the Senior Care Act, the only state-run program that grants elderly Kansas residents the opportunity to receive services and support in their homes, as administered by the Area Agencies on Aging.

SHL Bill 3206 asks the Kansas Legislature to repeal a law passed two years ago, which potentially could result in Kansas taking over the Medicare program for its citizens. The bill would declare as state policy that Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and all other federal health programs shall continue to be administered under existing federal law.

In a resolution, the Silver Haired Legislature encourages the Kansas congressional delegation to support the preservation of Social Security and Medicare, citing:

• Currently, approximately 92 percent of older Kansas receive Social Security, comprising about 55 percent of the typical older Kansan’s family income.

• Seven percent of older Kansans live in poverty, according to census data. Without Social Security benefits, an additional 40 percent would fall into poverty.

• Social Security provided $5.5 billion in benefits to Kansans aged 65 and older in 2012.

• Nearly 97 percent of older Kansas, or roughly 450,000 people, are enrolled in Medicare.

• Medicare spent an estimated $3.3 billion on health care services for older Kansans in 2012.

• Social Security and Medicare provide income and health security to Kansans aged 65 and older. Growing debt burdens, dwindling pensions, and increasing health care costs make these programs essential to their well-being.

Another resolution encourages legislators to support the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas, to help Kansans between the ages of 60 and 65 who are just above the federal poverty level, as well as helping helping hospitals, especially Critical Access Hospital in rural Kansas.

The Silver Haired Legislature was created by an act of Congress in 1969, with the Kansas Silver Haired Legislature being formed in 1982. The KSHL is charged with identifying issues important to Kansas adults 60 years of age and older and to educate the Kansas Legislature about those issues.