A clear majority of Kansas residents say they support legalizing marijuana for adult use and allowing the state to tax it, according to a new survey.
The annual Kansas Speaks survey, conducted by Fort Hays State University, includes residents’ opinions on a variety of public policy issues such as Medicaid expansion and firearms control. Buried elsewhere within the report, released last week, is the fact that more than 63 percent of respondents either “strongly support” or “somewhat support” legalizing and taxing recreational cannabis.
By comparison, only about 26 percent of respondents either “somewhat oppose” or “strongly oppose” marijuana legalization efforts. Eleven percent said they were either neutral or unsure.
Despite the approval among a majority of the state’s electorate, cannabis in the state of Kansas remains illegal for all purposes, including medicinal use. Three of the state’s four neighbors—Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri—have already legalized marijuana in some form.
However, there’s reason to believe the narrative around cannabis in Kansas may change in the coming years, albeit in a fairly limited fashion as compared to most other states that allow legal use.
In October, lawmakers took the first steps in advancing reform. The Special Committee on Federal and State Affairs recommended that the legislature look to Ohio’s medical cannabis program, which limits patients to 90-day supplies and bans smoking, as a template. Also included in the panel’s recommendation is a proposed ban on vaping of medical marijuana.
“This thing is going to go-go-go eventually, and we all need to kind of be at the table and make it a good piece of legislation to help people,” Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D) said.
Gov. Laura Kelly (D) has also signaled her support for medicinal cannabis.
Marijuana reform is moving forward in Kansas on the local level as well. Earlier this year, the Lawrence City Commission moved to decrease the city’s fine for possessing small amount of cannabis to $1 fine and $63 in court costs. City leaders voted 4-1 in favor of the city ordinance, which only applies to first and second convictions. Under state law, third offenses are felonies and cannot be processed in municipal court.
The move on the part of Lawrence city leaders was part of an effort to keep unnecessary charges off constituents’ legal records, Lawrence Mayor Lisa Larsen said.
“What I want to do with this is to bring some reasonable and equitable justice to this,” she said. “That’s what this is about for me.”
The Kansas Speaks survey—which involved phone interviews with 352 residents from August 26, 2019 to October 14—is the state’s only annual study of Kansans’ opinions on issues relating to public affairs, a news release says. Its margin of error was 5.2 percent, with a 95 percent confidence level.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.