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Top Kansas Democrats Unveil Plan To Put Medical And Adult-Use Marijuana Legalization On The 2022 Ballot

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Kansas Democratic leaders on Thursday announced that they will be introducing proposals to let voters decide on legalizing medical and adult-use marijuana in the state.

House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D) and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst (D) held a briefing on the plans, emphasizing that constituents are eager for the reform and so the proposed constitutional amendments would let them decide since the GOP-controlled legislature has failed to act.

The Kansas officials noted the similarity between their new plan and one unveiled by Iowa Democrats this week that would also refer marijuana to voters. There are also several other states where lawmakers are pushing to put cannabis measures on the ballot.

Sawyer said that while Republicans have had “very little interest in passing any sort of marijuana reform” through the traditional legislative process, he’s hopeful they will at least pass the measures to give voters a say in November.

“It’s time to give voters their opportunity to have their say and let the legislature know how they feel,” the leader said. He also said that he remains “hopeful” that a medical cannabis bill that passed the House last year will be taken up and advanced through the Senate, where it’s so far stalled.

However, that bill has “a lot of restrictions,” including a ban on smokeable cannabis, so the constitutional amendment would provide for a more comprehensive program that lawmakers would need to implement.

“I’m eager for people in Kansas to enjoy the same benefits that people have in other states,” Probst said. “We are an island. We are surrounded by states who provide for their residents the things that they want. And Kansas, leadership in this building, has decided they know better than Kansans what they should have.”

“During the upcoming legislative session, House and Senate Republicans will have an opportunity to demonstrate that they honestly value and trust the voters of Kansas to decide what’s best for the state, or if they simply support public votes when it’s politically advantageous to their re-election campaigns,” he said in a press release.

Sawyer said, “what’s interesting in my district, [cannabis reform] been the number one issue for about six or seven years now… That’s what I hear the most about.”

“There are people actually moving out of Kansas because they can’t get the relief they need,” the minority leader said. He added that giving people access to cannabis could help curb the opioid crisis.


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The legislative leaders say they expect to have the full, or nearly full, support of the Democratic caucus behind these cannabis proposals as well as a separate Medicaid expansion constitutional amendment they’re introducing.

The text of the measures are short and similar. One says: “Commencing July 1, 2023, and thereafter, the medicinal use of marijuana shall be legal in the state of Kansas.” The other says: Commencing July 1, 2023, and thereafter, the recreational use of marijuana shall be legal in the state of Kansas.”

If approved in the legislature and then by voters in November, the laws would take effect in July 2023.

Gov. Laura Kelly (D), for her part, supports medical cannabis. She previously 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.

The governor said in 2020 that while she wouldn’t personally advocate for adult-use legalization, she wouldn’t rule out signing the reform into law if a reform bill arrived on her desk.

Lawmakers in other states are also pushing the idea of letting voters decide on marijuana policy reform at the ballot.

For example, Iowa Democratic senators on Wednesday released the text of a joint resolution to put the question of marijuana legalization before voters on the state’s ballot.

Three New Hampshire lawmakers also recently filed separate bills to put marijuana reform on the state’s 2022 ballot.

Last month, a top Maryland lawmaker similarly pre-filed a bill to put cannabis legalization before voters on the state’s ballot this year.

Read the text of the constitutional amendments on medical and adult-use marijuana legalization below: 

Click to access kansasmarijuanaconstitutionalamendments.pdf

States Have Collected More Than $10 Billion In Adult-Use Marijuana Tax Revenue, Report Finds

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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