State lawmakers in Kansas met to discuss legalizing medical marijuana last week, with plans to introduce a bill when the legislature reconvenes next year. The attempt to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes follows an unsuccessful attempt last year, when a bill was passed by the Kansas House of Representatives but failed to gain the approval of the state Senate.
Last week, at a meeting of the 2022 Special Committee on Medical Marijuana, the chair of the panel, Republican Senator Rob Olson, said that he plans to introduce a bill to legalize medical marijuana at the beginning of the January legislative session.
“I think what I’m going to do is — and any member is more than welcome — is to take this information and create the bill,” Olson said at the committee meeting on December 9. “And I’m going to work on a bill with a couple members and then if anybody wants to sign on in the Senate, they’ll be more than able to sign onto that bill, and introduce it at the beginning of session.”
Olson also encouraged his fellow state lawmakers to introduce similar legislation for legislators to debate when they return to the state capital next year. The Kansas state legislature is currently adjourned and will reconvene on January 9, 2023.
“I think that’s probably the best way forward,” Olson said.
Members of the community attended the committee meeting, including a group of people opposed to medical marijuana legalization who expressed their views by wearing stickers reading “Kansas says ‘No.’” Individuals were also given the opportunity to speak either for or against legalizing medical marijuana, including Wichita State University senior Laura Cunningham. The student, who attended the committee meeting as part of a school assignment, told the members of the special legislative panel that she supports legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis.
“I feel like a lot of people who do smoke marijuana are very productive members of society, and actually function better because of it. I think a lot of people have found this balance that is appropriate for them as an individual, and that’s what really matters,” Cunningham said. “I don’t think that legalizing marijuana is going to necessarily cause this huge influx of people not having the motivation to participate in society.”
During the meeting, the committee members were given summaries of topics relevant to medical marijuana legalization, including product labeling and packaging, medicinal cannabis possession limits, taxation and permitting access to medical cannabis for incarcerated individuals. Mike Heim, a staff member in the Office of Revisor of Statutes, gave an overview of the information as part of a presentation to the legislative committee.
“You’ve had eight state agencies visit with you, you’ve had nine or 10 research memos by the legislative research department, you’ve had over 60 conferees that have testified in two days before this committee and you have reviewed a couple of bills that were alive last session and so on,” Heim said. “In other words, you’ve been inundated with information.”
Kansas Medical Marijuana Bills Failed Last Year
Last year, the Kansas House of Representatives passed legislation to legalize medical marijuana, Senate Bill 158, but the measure was killed in a Senate committee only weeks later. Another bill to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis, Senate Bill 560, also failed to gain a Senate committee’s approval to advance to a floor vote. Democratic Senator Cindy Holscher said that she hopes a medical marijuana legalization bill will pass the Senate this time, although she reminded her colleagues of the failure of Senate leadership to support the legislation.
“The whole issue is last year, we had a very strong bill that passed the House, and Senate President Ty Masterson wouldn’t allow it to move forward,” Holscher said. “So I know there are different parties who have been reaching out to him to remind him of how important an issue this is to a lot of different people. So time will tell.”