Kansas Medical Cannabis Proposal Dead for 2024

A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kansas won’t become law this year after a bid to bring the measure to the Senate floor failed to pass last week.
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A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kansas is dead for 2024 after the state Senate blocked an effort to bring the proposal to the floor for debate. Had it passed, the measure would have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis by patients with certain qualifying conditions in one of the few states that have yet to legalize medical weed.

Last month, a Kansas Senate legislative committee voted to table the proposal, Senate Bill 135, after hearing from both supporters and opponents of the measure. On Friday, an effort to revive the bill and pull it out of committee failed to gain the support of enough senators and was rejected by a vote of 12-25, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The Kansas Senate also failed to advance a bill to expand Medicaid coverage in the state, an opportunity from the federal government under the 2010 Affordable Care Act that has been adopted by 40 states and the District of Columbia. State Senator John Doll, a western Kansas Republican who voted for both measures, criticized his state for failing to follow the lead of much of the rest of the country.

“We’re behind the times,” Doll said on Friday after the Senate votes.

Bill Covered 21 Qualifying Conditions

Had the legislature approved Senate Bill 135, the measure would have legalized the use of cannabis for patients with one or more of 21 serious medical conditions including cancer, epilepsy, spinal cord injuries and chronic pain. Patients would be required to have a recommendation to use medical marijuana from their doctor and pay $50 for a state identification card to participate in the program. Patients would also pay a 10% excise tax on their purchases of medical cannabis. 

The bill also regulated the cultivation, processing, distribution and sale of medical marijuana. Four different state agencies—the Department of Health and Environment, the Board of Healing Arts, the Department of Revenue’s Alcohol and Beverage Control (which would be renamed to Alcohol and Cannabis Control) and the Board of Pharmacy—would be responsible for overseeing the medical marijuana program. 

Opponents of the medical marijuana bill cited the experience with legal medical pot in neighboring Oklahoma, where voters passed a legalization initiative in 2018 with nearly 57% of the vote. Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond and other Republican state officials have said that the loose regulations in his state’s medical marijuana law have led to an incursion of organized crime and foreign nationals eager to enter the lightly regulated market, many with plans to illegally distribute their crop to states that still prohibit weed.

“We had no idea we were going to have 10,000 growers, way more than they have in California and all these other states, and anybody with a hangnail could get a medical card,” said Republican Governor Kevin Stitt.

But Cheryl Kumberg, a registered western Kansas nurse and president of the Kansas Cannabis Coalition, said Oklahoma’s problems stem from the state’s legalization statute, which has remarkably lenient regulations compared to other states. She said Kansas residents who can obtain weed from other states are already using the drug, putting themselves in legal jeopardy in the process.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “I can go 45 minutes one way, a couple hours in the other direction, and you can just you can just use it however you want.”

Medical Marijuana Bill Tabled by Panel Last Month

Senate Bill 135 was stopped in its tracks on March 14 when the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee adopted a motion to table the measure. After the committe’s move, Democratic Governor Laura Kelly expressed frustration at the development. The governor, who has urged state lawmakers to pass a medical marijuana legalization bill in the past, also encouraged residents who back marijuana policy reform to contact state lawmakers and call on them to bring the proposal up for a vote.

“I am disappointed that some legislators are saying they don’t want to move forward with legalizing medical marijuana this year – effectively turning their backs on our veterans and those with chronic pain and seizure disorders,” Kelly wrote on X on March 16. “If they get their way, for yet another year thousands of Kansans will be forced to choose between breaking the law and living without pain. I encourage Kansans to call their state legislators and tell them to legalize medical marijuana this session.”

After Friday’s vote failed to bring the bill to the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Cindy Holscher said it is disappointing to see Republicans block the medical marijuana legalization bill despite the efforts of residents eager for cannabis policy reform.

“Over the past three weeks, scores of Kansans have reached out to their senators voicing support for medical cannabis as they have done for nearly the past decade,” Holscher said, according to a report from KAKE television news. “Sadly, supporters have faced many hurdles on this important measure.”

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