Staffers at the Hays Medical Centre in Hays, Kansas, found a 69-year-old terminal cancer patient using a THC vape to ease his suffering and turned him into the police, kicking off a storm of criticism and threats.
On 16 December, Greg Bretz received unexpected visitors to his hospital room — police officers from the town of Hays, Kansas.
Fox4 reports that a healthcare worker at the Hays Medical Centre reportedly caught Mr Bretz using the THC vape and later alerted the police.
Mr Bertz told The Kansas City Star that his doctor gave him permission to use whatever means he could — including the use of THC — to help relieve his pain. He said he spends most of his time "flat on my back," and noted that he cannot stand without assistance.
Two police officers visited Mr Bertz’s room and reportedly told the man that, due to the presence of supplementary oxygen in his hospital room, the vaping device could be a fire hazard. The hospital staff had already seized the vaping device by that point and turned it over to the police.
Because medicinal cannabis is not legal in the state of Kansas, Mr Bretz was cited for drug possession and was expected to show up to court on 2 January, 2023, despite being unable to stand without assistance.
In a Hays Post article claiming that initial reporting on the incident was inaccurate, Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler claims the responding officers felt uncomfortable writing the man a ticket and later that day asked the city’s prosecutor to drop the charges. The prosecutor agreed. However, KSNT reports that the citation remained active until eight days after the initial incident due to holiday work disruptions.
Mr Scheibler told the Hays Post that both his officers and the hospital staff did what they were required to do by Kansas state law.
“I think that the hospital did everything required to them by law,” Mr Scheibler said. “The officers did everything in accordance with Kansas state law. They didn’t violate any department policy or procedure.”
He said his officers "want to enforce the law equally and hold everybody to the same standard, which I think is important," adding that he "admires" the officers.
“I support what they did," he said. "I support their decisions trying to follow the law of Kansas and Hays, but also show some compassion and empathy, and they did that. They didn’t feel comfortable writing that ticket, [they] didn’t think it was necessary. So, they made that recommendation [to pull the ticket.]"
Mr Scheibler claims that more than a hundred people have contacted the Hays Police Department complaining about the incident, and local news reports claim — citing the Hays Police Department — that threats have been made to both the hospital and to the law enforcement agency.