The governor of Kansas says that medical cannabis legalization remains a legislative possibility this session despite lawmakers temporarily disbanding amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview published by KSNT on Wednesday, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) was asked about various policy proposals and noted that there’s “been some discussion about legalizing medical marijuana.”
“I think that discussion continues and I think if it actually was able to come to a vote, I think that it probably would pass the legislature,” she said, adding that “I think the issue of recreational marijuana is still not on the table.”
According to a writeup by the local news outlet, Kelly also said that the “possibility of medicaid expansion still exists this session as well as legalizing medical marijuana in Kansas.”
The governor said earlier this year that legalizing marijuana for medical use is a priority, but she also said she’d be inclined to sign a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in the event lawmakers sent one to her desk.
According to a poll released late last year, Kelly would have the support of a majority of residents (63 percent) if she enacted that broad policy change.
Last year, a special legislative commission issued recommendations in support of establishing a limited medical marijuana program that would allow patients to access products, though they advised that patients shouldn’t be able access smokable products.
If the legislature were to take up medical cannabis legalization this year, that would mark a notable victory for the reform movement at a time when campaigns are shutting down or suspending signature gathering due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements. It’s not clear at this point when lawmakers would be able to reconvene to take up legislation, though the governor said they will have to come back “in the near future.”
Meanwhile, the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands is pushing for legalization during the health crisis, announcing that he would be introducing a revised reform bill this week. He argued that the territory could benefit from tax revenue from legal cannabis sales, offsetting economic challenges resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Last week, the governor of New Mexico also discussed the economic potential of legalization and said she regretted that lawmakers were unable to pass a reform bill she supported during the short session earlier this year, stating that cannabis tax revenue would have been especially valuable during the pandemic.
But by and large, reform efforts have faced significant hurdles in recent months.
California activists for a campaign to amend the state’s legal cannabis program requested a digital signature option since in-person collection is not possible. A separate effort to put psilocybin legalization on the state ballot ended last week after activists failing to meet a signature deadline.
Two Oregon campaigns—one to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic use and another to decriminalize drug possession and expand substance misuse treatment—are both close to gathering enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. But they’re facing challenges amid the pandemic in collecting more to secure their placement. (The psilocybin campaign is benefitting from a $1 million contribution from the soap company Dr. Bronner’s, however.)
In Washington, D.C., advocates for a measure to decriminalize psychedelics asked the mayor and local lawmakers to accept online signatures for their ballot petition.
An effort to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska is facing similar signature gathering challenges. And in Missouri, an adult-use marijuana legalization campaign is officially over for the year due to the health crisis.
Idaho activists announced that they are suspending their ballot campaign to legalize medical cannabis, though they are still “focusing on distributing petitions through online download at IdahoCann.co and encouraging every volunteer who has downloaded a petition to get them turned in to their county clerk’s office by mail, regardless of how many signatures they have collected.”
In Arizona, a legalization campaign is petitioning the state Supreme Court to instruct the secretary of state to allow individuals to sign ballot petitions digitally using an existing electronic system that is currently reserved for individual candidates seeking public office.
North Dakota advocates said earlier this month that they are suspending their campaign to put marijuana legalization on the November ballot due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Montana advocates filed a lawsuit against the state last month, urging officials to allow electronic signature gathering for a measure to legalize marijuana for adult use. State officials filed a response opposing the request last week.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) conceded that the legalization push in the legislature is “effectively over” for 2020. He also said that the policy change may prove too complicated for lawmakers to take up remotely via video conferencing.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.