A terminally ill US citizen who was using cannabis for pain relief died. Authorities were notified by the hospital where he was staying.


Outrage and renewed calls to revisit the state’s draconian cannabis regulations have resulted after hospital workers in Kansas called the police on a man dying of cancer who was using cannabis products to cope with his symptoms.

Midway through December, two Hays police officers allegedly visited the cancer patient in the hospital to cite him for a drug infraction. The hospital staff had already confiscated the vaping equipment and cannabis substance when the police arrived.

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Even though the police department ultimately decided not to issue the citation that would have required the cancer patient to appear in court, news of the incident stoked debate over the continued criminalization of cannabis in Kansas, one of the three US states that has not legalised the product under any circumstances.

Lee Bretz, the patient’s son, claimed his father was “very angry” and “humiliated” by the episode, despite his relief that the case against him had been dismissed.

Bretz said his father, who is dying of an incurable form of illness, was handed a “must appear” ticket for drug possession. No way will he be able to show up to court today. In other words, he can’t get out of bed. His leg movement is impaired.

According to his son, the responding officers “should have showed a lot more sympathy and not done anything” in this case.

Hays, Kansas’s medical facility did not immediately provide comment through a spokeswoman.

At first, 69-year-old cancer sufferer Greg Bretz told a Wichita Eagle opinion columnist that he was “flat on my back” in his hospital bed, and that he had been using a vaping device and eating some THC paste on bread to deal with the symptoms of his sickness.

Since there were no medical therapies available to him beyond hospice care, a doctor had advised him it was okay “to do anything he wants if it makes him feel better,” he explained.

On December 19th, hospital staff reported a patient who was vaping in his room, citing “their worry as a potential fire danger,” and also carrying THC, “which is unlawful in the state of Kansas,” according to Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler.

Scheibler added that the initial story of the police engagement with the cancer patient as a “Christmastime hospital-room raid” was untrue. Not a raid, as they say.

According to Scheibler, who reviewed audio of the two officers’ encounter with the patient in the hospital room, the officers were “polite, courteous, respectful” to the frustrated patient while issuing him a citation for a drug violation with a court date of January 26. The encounter lasted “less than eight minutes,” Scheibler said.

According to the police chief, the officer who initially gave the narcotics citation to the cancer patient later had second thoughts and, after consulting with a supervisor, sent an email to the municipal prosecutor asking that he drop the charges.

Last but not least, Scheibler said, “they demonstrated compassion and understanding,” which is what the public expects from law enforcement. They independently decided to issue the citation and suggested it be dismissed. Nothing that had been reported on at the time.

The police chief indicated that the city prosecutor had not seen the email about dropping the charges until after the police encounter with the cancer patient had gone viral. He stated that he informed the patient himself on December 27 that the police department would not be pursuing the ticket and that the patient would not be required to appear in court.

Over a hundred people have contacted the Hays police department via phone or email, the chief said, all of them unhappy by media coverage of the officers’ interactions with the cancer patient. Several local media sites also stated that the hospital had received death threats after the incident was reported.

Police officers “don’t determine what the law is,” Scheibler emphasised. I think it’s important to have a conversation regarding medical marijuana.

The patient’s son, Lee Bretz, expressed his desire for medical marijuana to be legalised in Kansas. As he put it, “you’d do anything to see them not hurt, because nobody wants to watch their loved ones hurting.”

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