Connect with us

Politics

Kansas Lawmakers Push To Legalize Medical Marijuana In 2021

Published

on

With the state budget hurting amid COVID-19 and a past commitment from Gov. Laura Kelly to sign a medical marijuana bill, this session may present the most realistic shot yet at passing meaningful cannabis policies.

By Noah Taborda, Kansas Reflector

After a shortened session dashed hopes for medicinal cannabis legalization in 2020, proponents of the plant are taking a fresh approach for the upcoming legislative session.

Last year, two separate bills were filed pushing for medicinal use, but both died in committee, despite a push to consider cannabis legislation in June when lawmakers convened for a special session. One of the bills offered a more conservative cannabis policy, like that of Ohio.

This year, those pushing to pass the bill are working to create collaborative legislation that appeals to both sides of the aisle, said Daniel Shafton, a consultant for the Kansas Cannabis Business Association.

Shafton said the KSCBA has put significant effort into meetings and webinars with stakeholders and legislators to inform the bill they plan to propose.

“We need to have a cohesive message,” Shafton said. “We were very honest about what needed to happen for us to move forward, and we have been very successfully able to bring a lot of voices to the table in a unified way. We have designed this bill alongside the legislators in a way that really accomplishes major goals from the 2021 Legislature of both sides of the aisle.”

In Kansas, which has already authorized hemp production and the sale of cannabidiol products without tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the next step is legalized medical use. Although such legislation has failed in the past, advocates are confident perception is shifting enough to see a bill through the House and Senate.

Erin Montroy, co-president and CEO of the KSCBA, said a bill will be filed in the first week or so of the legislative session. She said the bill would likely lean toward the conservative end of the spectrum in the early going and could be modified as the session progressed.

“No bill is perfect. No program is perfect,” Montroy said. “If we can get one off the ground and started, we can build on it, and with these relationships that will be much easier down the road.”

Montroy said any legislation would be carefully reviewed and edited to ensure that patient outcomes are at the core of the bill.

“The route that a lot of other states were taking to get there wasn’t really working,” Montroy said. “They were building really robust platforms that sounded like they’d be really beneficial to patients. But without a truly robust business platform, the patient suffers, no matter what the legislation says.”

Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat who expressed support for cannabis legalization efforts, emphasized the benefits legalization could provide for the criminal justice system.

Estimates from the Council of States Governments Justice Center indicate the state spent $41 million in 2019 to incarcerate people for drug offenses.

“It’s high time that Kansas, which is an agricultural state, get on board and adopt some meaningful legislation to enhance access” to marijuana, Haley said, noting that all but one bordering state had passed some form of legalized cannabis.

Nebraska has yet to legalize marijuana but has decriminalized the drug for first-time offenders. Cannabis is legal for medical use in Missouri and Oklahoma and recreationally in Colorado.

In Kansas, criminal penalties related to cannabis have been reduced during the past several years through adjustments to state law and city ordinances.

Rep. Aaron Coleman, a newly elected Kansas City Democrat who faces an ouster attempt, is a strong proponent of legalizing cannabis. In 2018, he took a shot at the race for governor, campaigning on cannabis policy.

Like Haley, Coleman sees legalization as a crucial step for equity in the criminal justice system and beyond.

“There’s a lot of benefits to legalizing cannabis, other than just emptying the prisons,” Coleman said. “This is also something which can be used as a medicine. And this would also create millions of dollars in new tax revenue.”

Across the aisle, Republican legislators have typically taken a more cautious and guarded approach to cannabis policy.

Rep. John Eplee, an Atchison Republican and physician, is a member of the 2021 House Federal and State Affairs Committee—the group of lawmakers who will review cannabis legislation. Like Coleman, he sees the potential value of cannabis medicinally but draws the line at more widespread, recreational use.

Eplee said his professional experience has shown him a need for more treatment options. He said he must be responsive to the needs and desires of his constituents.

“I think we’re very compelled for societal and cultural reasons to take this up and try to figure out a way to let folks have at least some access to medicinal marijuana at some point in time,” Eplee said. “I don’t know whether it’ll be this session. And I don’t know when it’ll be, but I just think it’s going to keep coming until the dam opens up.”

In the 2020 Kansas Speaks survey by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University, 66.9% of respondents “strongly supported” or “somewhat supported” legalizing recreational marijuana for individuals 21 and over to allow taxation by the state.

Eplee said any bill that hopes to pass through both chambers must be strongly regulated, something echoed by Rep. Leo Delperdang, a Wichita Republican.

“There needs to be something in the bill that says it is truly regulated by a licensed physician, and that physician who prescribed it should be held accountable if it messes you up,” Delperdang said. “It needs to be written so the average police officer knows exactly where they stand. The officer is enforcing the law, and it needs to be perfectly clear to them you can have up to X ounces.”

Delperdang voted against a 2019 bill that would have decriminalized possession of CBD oil with a THC concentration of up to 5%. He said that decision came down to a lack of clarity on the quantity that could be possessed, but that he may have been able to stomach the proposed legislation had it been more regulated.

Although he is being cautious in his approach, Delperdang said, he would remain open to any legislation proposed.

With the state budget hurting amid COVID-19 and a past commitment from Gov. Laura Kelly to sign a medical marijuana bill, this session may present the most realistic shot yet at passing meaningful cannabis policies.

“As our state recovers from COVID-19, legalizing medical marijuana is an innovative solution to increase state revenue and improve Kansas’ overall health and economy,” said Reeves Oyster, spokeswoman for Kelly. “We must come up with a Kansas-specific approach that’s well-regulated, controlled, and a collaborative effort with the law enforcement community.”

This story was first published by Kansas Reflector.

New York Governor Calls For Marijuana Legalization In State Of The State Address

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Politics

Top Pennsylvania Official Restores Marijuana Flag After GOP Lawmakers Allegedly Got It Removed

Published

on

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s (D) marijuana and LGBTQ flags are waving again at his Capitol office after state officials removed them Monday night, allegedly at the behest of certain GOP lawmakers who feel strongly about the activist decor.

The day after their removal, the lieutenant governor proudly announced on Twitter that he’d restored the flags—one rainbow-themed and the other displaying cannabis leaves.

“I really can’t emphasize this enough, my issue isn’t with the individuals that came to take them down. They’re kind of caught in the middle of it so it’s not them,” Fetterman told Marijuana Moment. “But the Pennsylvania GOP exerted enough pressure and made enough drama so they felt that they needed to do something and they took them down. When I realized that, I just put them back up.”

The flags have been an unusual source of controversy for some members of the legislature. In November, Republican lawmakers passed budget legislation that included a provision targeting his cannabis-themed office decor, making it so only the American flag, the Pennsylvania flag and those honoring missing soldiers could be displayed at the Capitol building.

“There’s one great way to get them down for good and we can end this,” the lieutenant governor said. And that’s by enacting legislative reform.

“It shouldn’t have to be this way. These are not controversial things. These are very fundamentally American things. It’s freedom-related. It’s individuality-related. It’s jobs. It’s revenue,” he said. “These are not controversial, but these flags are. For the party that thinks it’s A-OK to talk about how an election that was secure was rigged, they sure have a real thin skin when it comes to free speech.”

A spokesperson for the state Department of General Services confirmed to Marijuana Moment that it was tasked with removing the flags and did so “in order to comply with section 1724-E of the fiscal code.” Asked whether lawmakers from the legislature’s Republican majority influenced the recent action, the representative repeated: “All I can say is the Department of General Services removed the flag in order to comply with section 1724-E of the fiscal code.”

Marijuana Moment reached out to the offices of the Senate majority leader and House speaker for comment, but representatives did not respond by the time of publication.

Defying the flag order is par for the course for Fetterman, a longtime marijuana reform advocate who is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate. His enthusiastic embrace of the issue has often put him in the spotlight, and he said he’d take that advocacy to Congress if he ultimately decides to enter the race and is elected.

“I’m the only person that’s actually called out my own party for its failure to embrace it when it is appropriate,” he said, referring to his repeated criticism of the Democratic National Committee’s rejection of a pro-legalization platform. “There has never been—or would ever be—a more committed advocate to ending this awful superstition over a plant for the United States.”

On his campaign website, the lieutenant governor touts his role in leading a listening tour across the state to solicit public input on the policy change. He noted that, following his efforts, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) “announced his support for legalization for the first time.”

It remains to be seen when legalization will happen in Pennsylvania, however. Despite Fetterman and Wolf’s support for legalization and the pressure they’re applying on lawmakers, convincing Republican legislative leaders to go along with the plan remains a challenge.

Fetterman previously told Marijuana Moment that pursuing reform through the governor’s budget request is a possibility. But in the meantime the administration is exploring the constitutionality of issuing “wholesale pardons for certain marijuana convictions and charges.”

Since adopting a pro-legalization position in 2019, Wolf has repeatedly called on the legislature to enact the policy change. He’s stressed that stressed that marijuana reform could generate tax revenue to support the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and that ending criminalization is necessary for social justice.

In September, he took a dig at the Republican-controlled legislature for failing to act on reform in the previous session. And in August, he suggested that the state itself could potentially control marijuana sales rather than just license private retailers as other legalized jurisdictions have done.

Fetterman previously said that farmers in his state can grow better marijuana than people in New Jersey—where voters approved a legalization referendum in November—and that’s one reason why Pennsylvania should expeditiously reform its cannabis laws.

He also hosted a virtual forum where he got advice on how to effectively implement a cannabis system from the lieutenant governors of Illinois and Michigan, which have enacted legalization.

Shortly after the governor announced that he was embracing the policy change, a lawmaker filed a bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

A majority of Senate Democrats sent Wolf a letter in July arguing that legislators should pursue the policy change in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top New York Official Responds To Marijuana Advocates’ Criticism Of Governor’s Legalization Plan

Photo courtesy of Twitter/John Fetterman.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Hawaii Could Legalize Psychedelic Mushroom Therapy Under New Senate Bill

Published

on

Hawaii could legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms for therapy under a newly filed bill in the state legislature.

The measure, if approved, would direct the state Department of Health to “establish designated treatment centers for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin and psilocyn,” two psychoactive substances produced by certain fungi.

It would also remove the two compounds from the state’s list of Schedule I controlled substances and create a seven-person psilocybin review panel to assess the impacts of the policy change.

Few other specifics are provided in the bill, SB 738, introduced in the state Senate on Friday. It doesn’t specify who would qualify for the therapy, for example, or how precisely the drugs—which remain federally illegal—would be administered. The legislation simply says the Department of Health “shall adopt rules” in accordance with state law.

The new legislation comes less than a year after Hawaii lawmakers introduced bills to begin studying the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms with the goal of eventually legalizing them, though those measures did not advance.

Entheogens—including other substances like ayahuasca and ibogaine—have emerged as a promising treatment for severe depression, anxiety and other conditions, although research remains ongoing.

In November, voters in Oregon approved a ballot measure to legalize psilocybin therapy that the state is now in the process of implementing.

The new Hawaii bill was introduced by Sens. Stanley Chang, Laura Clint Acasio, Les Ihara Jr. and Maile Shimabukuro, all Democrats. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, according to the state legislature’s website.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The Hawaii proposal is one of a growing number of broader reform bills to have been introduced across the country this year as the debate on drug policy moves beyond marijuana. A measure introduced in New York earlier this month would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of any controlled substance, instead imposing a $50 fine. Similar measures are expected to be introduced in California and Washington State this year.

A Florida lawmaker recently announced plans to introduce legislation to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes in the state.

Lawmakers in New Jersey last month sent a bill to Gov. Phil Murphy (D) that would reduce criminal charges for the possession of psilocybin, but so far Murphy hasn’t signed the measure.

Voters, meanwhile, have been broadly supportive of drug reform measures in recent years. In addition to the psilocybin. measure, Oregon voters in November also approved an initiative to decriminalize possession of all drugs. Washington, D.C. voters overwhelmingly enacted a proposal to decriminalize the possession of psychedelics.

Despite the growing discussion of drug reform at statehouses across the country, some high-profile advocates are setting their sights on the 2022 election. Dr. Bronner’s CEO David Bronner, a key financial backer of successful reform efforts in Oregon, told Marijuana Moment last month that he’s expecting both Washington state and Colorado voters will see decriminalization or psilocybin therapy on their 2022 ballots.

Meanwhile, a new advocacy group is pushing Congress to allocate $100 million to support research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

New Psychedelics Reform Group Sets Sights On Congress As Movement Builds

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Minnesota Governor Urges Lawmakers To Pursue Marijuana Legalization Amid Budget Talks

Published

on

The governor of Minnesota on Tuesday implored the legislature to look into legalizing marijuana as a means to boost the economy and promote racial justice.

During a briefing focused on his budget proposal for the 2022-23 biennium, Gov. Tim Walz (D) was asked whether he is open to allowing sports betting in the state to generate tax revenue. He replied he wasn’t closing the door on that proposal, but said he is more interested in seeing lawmakers “take a look at recreational cannabis.”

Not only would tax revenue from adult-use marijuana “dwarf” those collected through sports betting, he said, but legalization would also help address “the equity issue and, quite honestly, the racial impact of our cannabis laws.”

Watch the governor discuss marijuana legalization below: 

“I will say this, I will certainly leave open that possibility. Our neighboring states have done both of those things,” Walz said of legalizing sports gambling and cannabis. “I obviously recognize that that’s not a 100 percent slam dunk for people, and they realize that there’s cost associated with both. But my message would be is, I don’t think this is the time for me to say I’m shutting the door on anything.”

Walz did not include a request to legalize through his budget, however, as governors in some other states have.

The Minnesota governor did say in 2019, however, that he was directing state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization passing.

Earlier this month, the House majority leader said he would again introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in the new session. And if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the reform, he said he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Heading into the 2020 election, Democrats believed they had a shot of taking control of the Senate, but that didn’t happen. The result appears to be partly due to the fact that candidates from marijuana-focused parties in the state earned a sizable share of votes that may have otherwise gone to Democrats, perhaps inadvertently hurting the chances of reform passing.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) said this month that “Senate Republicans remain the biggest obstacle to progress on this issue.”

“Minnesota’s current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” she told The Center Square. “By creating a regulatory framework we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R), for his part, said that while he would be “open to expanding medical use or hearing criminal justice reforms,” he doesn’t “believe fully legalized marijuana is right for the state.”

“Other states that have legalized marijuana are having issues with public safety,” he argued, “and we are concerned that we haven’t fully seen how this works with employment issues, education outcomes and mental health.”

Last month, the Minnesota House Select Committee On Racial Justice adopted a report that broadly details race-based disparities in criminal enforcement and recommends a series of policy changes, including marijuana decriminalization and expungements.

Another factor that might add pressure on lawmakers to enact the reform is the November vote in neighboring South Dakota to legalize adult-use cannabis.

Also next door, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is pushing lawmakers to enact marijuana reform and recently said that he is considering putting legalization in his upcoming budget request.

New Mexico Governor Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In State Of The State Address

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!