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Kansas Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill, Clearing It For Floor Vote

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A Kansas House committee on Monday adopted another set of amendments to a medical marijuana legalization bill and approved the overall measure, clearing its path to a floor vote.

The legislation, which was introduced last month in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, has been the subject of multiple hearings in the panel, with members going through numerous proposed changes in recent days.

Chairman John Barker (R) said during last week’s initial hearing that the plan was to have legislators take most of the week to review the amendments and then vote on Thursday, but that timeline was delayed. Despite complaints from some members that the process was rushed nonetheless, the committee passed the bill in a 13-8 vote.

That followed a motion to table the measure that failed. Lawmakers separately approved a procedural motion to incorporate the bill’s language into an unrelated Senate proposal to speed up its consideration by the two chambers.

The legislation would establish a medical marijuana program for qualified patients. As drafted, it listed 21 conditions that would qualify patients for the program, including chronic pain, HIV and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it was amended on Monday to expand that list. Smoking and vaping products would be prohibited. It would also not provide for home growing.

Members of the panel heard testimony from supporters and opponents last month.

Here are the amendments that the committee approved and rejected during Monday’s hearing: 

Rep. Randy Garber (R)

APPROVED: Expand the list of qualifying conditions; loosen restrictions on the vaping ban; remove THC limits; remove regulators’ ability to institute business licensing caps; give regulatory authority to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) instead of the Agriculture Department; enact protections for nurses who treat patients using medical cannabis; add testing provisions; remove a new crime for storing medical marijuana in places accessible to children; tighten residency requirements for business owners; and charge fees to cultivators based on plant counts instead of square footage.

The amendment as originally floated would have removed a requirement to set aside a portion of licenses for minority-owned businesses, but Garber struck that provision on Monday.

Rep. John Eplee (R)

APPROVED: Allow the state Board of Healing Arts to adopt regulations for medical practitioners who want to issue recommendations.

APPROVED: Let employers continue to enforce workplace drug testing and penalize workers over medical cannabis use.

APPROVED: Permit physician designees to assist in medical cannabis recommendations, but not issue them; change to 30-day supply possession limit from 90 days; codify a normal physician-patient relationship and require a physical examination and review of existing medical records; create lab testing accreditations and inspections via ABC; allow regulators to require sample submission of product with no notices; and require dispensaries to appoint pharmacists as consultants.

Rep. Jo Ella Hoye (D)

APPROVED: Require child-resistant packaging when a marijuana product transfers from a dispensary to a patient.

Rep. Eric Smith (R)

APPROVED: Require tamper-proof, Kansas-specific seal on packaging; impose an open-container law for marijuana products when in a vehicle; and require that cannabis is kept in a locked trunk if the seal is broken.

Vice Chair Tory Marie Arnberger (R)

REJECTED: Earmark 25 percent of medical cannabis revenue for certified community behavioral health clinics, 25 percent for health care services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities and five percent for court-appointed special advocates.

Last week, members also adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Blake Carpenter (R). 

APPROVED: Make changes to provisions concerning the establishment of a medical marijuana advisory board; specify that if regulators have not acted on a petition to add a new qualifying condition within a certain period of time it would be automatically denied; add language to require that other states have equal or stricter standards in order for their patients to qualify under reciprocity provisions; revise advertising restrictions and licensing requirements for people with prior marijuana-related convictions; and set fines for businesses that knowingly disclose confidential patient information.

Gov. Laura Kelly (D) 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. Woodard also voted in favor of the bill in committee on Monday.

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 last month, though it has not seen action.

The measure’s language largely reflects legislation that was introduced in the House last year. Patients would be eligible for medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation if they have a condition that significantly inhibits their ability to conduct daily activities or if the lack of treatment would pose serious physical or mental harm.

Registered patients would be allowed to grow and possess at least four ounces of marijuana. The bill would also establish a Kansas Medical Cannabis Agency to oversee the program.

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