A terminally ill Kansas man who was cited by police for drug possession while bedridden at Hays Memorial Hospital has had his charges dismissed. Greg Bretz is in the latent stage of inoperable cancer and has been using a vape and THC edible paste to ease the pain of the disease.
Bretz was approached by three officers in his hospital room after a nurse called the police after discovering his use of the palliative drugs, according to The Wichita Eagle’s Dion Lefler.
“If you’re like me, you might question whether raiding a dying man’s hospital room to bust him for possession of marijuana extracts is the best use of police time,” Lefler wrote.
Kansas is one of only three states that have a full ban on medical marijuana with no exceptions – despite nearly 70% of voters who support its approval.
“Kansas really needs to legalize medical marijuana and help those who actually need it,” Lee Bretz, the son of 69-year-old Greg Bretz, told local NBC affiliate KSN 4.
Detailing the incident – which happened shortly before Christmas Day – Bretz told Lefler a doctor at the hospital told the dying man that there was “nothing medical science can do for him anymore,” and do whatever was necessary to make it easier to deal with the pain.
According to Lefler, “He’s been using a vaping device and eating a little bit of the THC paste on bread to relieve his symptoms.”
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Mr. Bretz’s son defended his father’s use of the banned substance, due to the way traditional therapy makes him feel, KSN 4 reported.
“So the chemo hadn’t been too kind to him, so he’s been exploring some other options, and it seemed to be helping him out a little bit, but that all went south when he got turned in by one of the hospital staff,” Lee said.
Though the officers told Bretz that the vaping device was a fire hazard – due to the oxygen in use – the police were more focused on seizing the paste.
The THC paste is the one thing that helps alleviate some of Mr. Bretz’s discomfort because the liquid in his vape only has trace amounts of the psychoactive compound.
News of the incident spread quickly, with most people siding with Mr. Bretz.
Both the hospital and the Hays Police Department have reportedly received death threats from an outraged public.
According to Police Chief Don Scheibler, original reports of what happened were misleading.
Scheibler told reporters that the officer who ticketed Mr. Bretz struggled with the decision the chief says made him “uncomfortable.”
“That day, the officer sent an email to the city prosecutor requesting that the charge be dismissed,” Scheibler said.
Because of the Christmas holiday, it wouldn’t be until Tuesday that the charges were officially dismissed – along with the upcoming January 2nd court appearance.
Unable to stand without assistance, Bretz having to appear at the courthouse would have added even more hardship to a man already facing a heartbreaking and painful reality.
“Well, it makes me feel good, but it still don’t stop the fact that you know, the damage is done to him,” Lee Bretz said. “We just want the best for our loved ones, you know.”
The charges may have been dismissed but, unfortunately, that Mr. Bretz had to face them at all is the real tragedy in all of this.
While it will surely play a role in the Kansas legislature’s upcoming debate on the issue of legalizing medicinal marijuana, another issue that should be addressed is the use of police resources in cases like these.
Sending three uniformed law enforcement officers to the hospital room of a dying man whose contraband had already been confiscated by hospital staff prior to their arrival, doesn’t seem necessary or appropriate.
Original reporting by Dion Lefler at The Wichita Eagle and by Hannah Adamson at KSN-TV.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick