Kansas Lawmakers Reject Proposal to Reform Marijuana Laws, Reduce Penalties

The GOP-controlled House committee rejected the proposal to ease possession penalties.
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Written by John Hanna

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators aren’t ready to declare that marijuana possession never should be a felony, rejecting proposals Monday to lower penalties for third-time offenders and to release others from prison.

The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee voted 7-4 against a bill that would make possessing marijuana a misdemeanor, no matter how many times someone was convicted. Kansas law currently says a third conviction is a felony that can be punished by up to 14 months in prison, though offenders often receive probation.

The bill also initially said offenders now in prison for marijuana possession would be released, but the committee removed that provision from the measure. Supporters of lessening the penalties for repeated marijuana possession accepted the change to give the bill a better chance of passing.

Yet the measure failed to clear the GOP-controlled committee anyway, and Chairman Russ Jennings, a Lakin Republican, said the debate on the idea is over for the year. It was a blow to advocates of less strict laws on pot.

“I still don’t believe that marijuana should be legalized,” said GOP Rep. Stephen Owens, of Hesston. “I believe this was a step in that direction.”

Jennings supported the bill and said continuing to make some pot possession a felony is “pretty harsh.”

“I thought this was mild enough that it might get through the committee,” said Democratic Rep. Boog Highberger, of Lawrence, home to the liberal University of Kansas main campus. “I can’t explain it.”

Jennings also worried that Monday’s vote is a sign that Kansas lawmakers also aren’t ready to legalize medical marijuana yet, despite expectations of having a serious debate this year. More than 30 states have legalized medical marijuana, including conservative neighbors Missouri and Oklahoma.

No Kansas legislative committee has taken up a medical marijuana bill. However, another House panel, the Federal and State Affairs Committee, is having one drafted and it could be ready as early as next week, said Chairman John Barker, an Abilene Republican.

Some corrections committee members said they see medical marijuana as a different issue. They said the pot possession bill was problematic partly because some offenders plead guilty to possession when facing more serious charges.

And Ed Klumpp, a former Topeka police chief who lobbies for law enforcement groups, said current state law is “reasonable” because people convicted a third time of marijuana possession typically don’t go to prison unless they’ve committed another felony such as aggravated assault.

As for other states legalizing medical marijuana, Klumpp said, “Well, my mother used to tell me all the time, ‘Just because Johnny jumped off a cliff, it doesn’t mean you should.’”

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  1. My son in Colorado uses it all the time. He used too suffer from chronic depression buyt the medical marijuana has helped him tremendously. The state of Kansas lawmakers are nothing more than doctors who , get kickback for every – Big-Pharma product they prescribe , of course they dont want marijuana legalized. My own wife suffers from Chronic Migraines, and we had too go to colorado so she could try Medical marijuana too see if it would help, well…….. it helped her amazingly!!! The peoples health far outweighs a few greedy politicians!!!!!! If the Kansas state Legislatures arent careful , they wont have anyone left too vote for them and the roads will go back too the 1800s!!! ,dirt and potholed because they are not listening too the people!! When you have thousands of people showing up at the state capitol demanding that it should at least be given too those ,( including children suffering from horrible diseases), and they still wont listen too the people tells me they DONT CARE FOR THE PEOPLE OF KANSAS!!! Enough is enough!!! My wife and I are ready too move too Oklahoma, or Colorado!!! Up in colorado they call those leaving Kansas, Medical Refugees!!, how sad!!!!

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