A bill to legalize medical marijuana stalled in the Kansas legislature on Thursday—but now the governor is urging the public to contact their representatives to demand they take the legislation back up for action “this session.”
Gov. Laura Kelly (D), who has long championed cannabis reform, said on Thursday that she’s “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.”
“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,” she said. “I encourage Kansans to call their state legislators and tell them to legalize medical marijuana this session.”
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. (2/2)
— Governor Laura Kelly (@GovLauraKelly) March 16, 2023
Kelly also said in 2021 that she would be “enlisting the efforts of the people of Kansas who really want this” to pressure their lawmakers to get the reform enacted.
A medical cannabis bill received several hearings this month in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, including two this week. Following Thursday’s meeting, which featured opponents, the panel agreed to table the legislation.
Chairman Mike Thompson (R) said that lawmakers had “bigger fish to fry,” indicating that he’s not interested in taking the proposal back up before the end of the 2023 session.
Kansas Democrats said on Thursday that the “sky is not falling in states where legalized, well-regulated medical marijuana is on the books.”
The sky is not falling in states where legalized, well-regulated medical marijuana is on the books.
All Kansans, and especially Kansas veterans, deserve compassionate, forward-thinking laws that improve their quality of life. https://t.co/bjcb9XMWjP
— Kansas Dems (@KansasDems) March 17, 2023
“All Kansans, and especially Kansas veterans, deserve compassionate, forward-thinking laws that improve their quality of life,” the party said.
Also yes, "Hide the Pain Harold" would like to remind you that legal and well-regulated medical cannabis does, indeed, help one suffering from chronic conditions hide the pain.
— Kansas Dems (@KansasDems) March 17, 2023
In 2021, a medical cannabis bill passed the House but stalled out in the Senate.
Senate President Ty Masterson (R) previously said that he expected bills and hearings on the issue this year, and a spokesperson said that the senator understands that perspectives are “maturing” on medical marijuana—though the spokesperson also said the issue is “not a priority.”
In her annual State of the State address in January, the governor said that there’s a “commonsense way to improve health care here in Kansas—and that’s to finally legalize medical marijuana.”
She cited an example of a terminally ill man whose hospital room was raided by police and who was given a later-rescinded citation to appear in court over possession of a cannabis vape and extract that he was using to treat serious pain. That man has since passed away.
Meanwhile, members of the Special Committee on Medical Marijuana held their final meeting in December as they worked to prepare legislation for the 2023 session.
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The panel, which toured a Missouri cannabis cultivation facility late last year as part of their work, went over the wide range of issues that they’ve been discussing with officials and experts in recent months.
Further complicating efforts to enact reform this session is the fact that Sen. Robert Olsen (R), who put significant time into studying medical cannabis as a leader of the special panel, was replaced this session as chair of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, which introduced this latest bill and has jurisdiction over it.
Also, Rep. John Barker (R), who worked on the issue as chair of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, lost his primary bid last year and is no longer in the legislature.
Then-House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D) and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst (D) said last year that they wanted to let voters decide on legalizing medical and adult-use marijuana in the state.
The governor, for her part, previously pushed a separate proposal that would legalize medical cannabis and use the resulting revenue to support Medicaid expansion, with Rep. Brandon Woodard (D) filing the measure on the governor’s behalf.
Following President Joe Biden’s announcement on pardoning people who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses and imploring governors to follow suit, Kelly said that her administration is “focused on legalizing medical marijuana so that Kansans with severe illnesses no longer have to suffer.
She added that they will “continue to consider all clemency and pardon requests based on a complete and thorough review of the individual cases.”
The governor also said in 2020 that while she wouldn’t personally advocate for adult-use legalization, she wouldn’t rule out signing the reform into law if a reform bill arrived on her desk.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.