The Kansas House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill to establish a medical marijuana program in the state.
Days after clearing the Federal and State Affairs Committee, the bill advanced out of the full chamber in a 79-42 vote, and it now heads to the Senate.
The road to the floor has been somewhat complicated for this measure. It moved through committee after a series of hearings and onto the floor in March, but then it was rereferred to the panel for further consideration. Members then adopted several additional amendments before sending it back on the floor.
Advocates are hopeful that the measure will pass the Senate in the coming days during the legislative veto session.
Gov. Laura Kelly (D) supports medical cannabis and would be expected to sign a bill if it arrives on her desk.
“Today, a Republican initiative to legalize medical marijuana was passed by a Republican supermajority in a non-ballot initiative state,” Erin Montroy, CEO for the Kansas Cannabis Business Association, told Marijuana Moment. “This is a watershed moment, the point where everything changes and nothing will ever be the same.”
The legislation would establish a medical marijuana program for qualified patients. It lists about two dozen conditions that make a person eligible for cannabis, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. It was amended on the floor to add lupus to the list of qualifying conditions, but a separate proposed revision to add insomnia and sleep disorders to the list failed.
Smoking and vaping products would be prohibited, and an amendment to remove that prohibition was rejected on the floor. The bill would also not provide for home growing.
The state would license medical cannabis growers, testing labs, processors distributors and retailers, and counties would be able to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses to operate in their jurisdiction.
Patients would be able to purchase up to a 90 day supply of cannabis from licensed dispensaries, which would be regulated by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). That department would also be renamed the Division of Alcohol and Cannabis Control.
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The secretary of the Department of Health and Environment would have to develop regulations to administer the medical cannabis program by July 1, 2023.
The bill also makes it so the language around physicians “recommending” marijuana would be changed to “prescribing” if the plant is federally rescheduled. The state’s scheduling system would also automatically conform with the federal code.
The House accepted another floor amendment that would set up a pilot program 45 days after the effective date of the bill ahead of the full program’s launch, whereby regulators would select one company to have licenses to cultivate, test and dispense cannabis and would partner with three state universities to issue recommendations about best practices.
Other approved amendments include one that would require regulators to review the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana every three years and to clarify that patients could lose their ability to participate in the program if they violate its rules.
Members also approved a change to require medical marijuana retailers to display a warning sign near checkout counters, advising against cannabis use by pregnant women and people with psychiatric disorders—but they rejected another amendment from the same lawmaker who sought to severely restrict advertising for marijuana businesses.
The body rejected a proposed revision to change the definition of a social equity applicant and reduce the application fee for those eligible individuals by 15 percent. Another amendment failed that would have required all medical marijuana to be dispensed at licensed pharmacies.
Other rejected amendments include one that would have stipulated that cultivation could only take place on farms, rather than at indoor facilities, make it so medical cannabis could only be sold in pill form, cap THC content in marijuana products at 15 percent, decriminalize possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis and replace the legalization bill with language that would simply provide an affirmative legal that patients could raise in court if they are arrested.
Prior to reaching the floor, committee members amended an unrelated bill that previously passed the Senate to make it the vehicle for the House reform proposal. The measure now heads back to the Senate, where lawmakers could move to form a bicameral conference committee to finalize the proposal.
The governor, for her part, has 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.
Kelly has she said she wants voters to put pressure on their representatives to get the reform passed.
While both pieces of legislation would make it so Kansas would join the vast majority of states that have legal medical marijuana markets, advocates view them as restrictive, particularly as it concerns the limited methods of consumption that would be permitted.
A separate medical cannabis legalization bill was introduced by the Senate Commerce Commerce in February, though it has not seen action beyond being referred to another panel.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.