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Kansas House Approves Medical Cannabis Bill; Republican Leaders Suggest Senate Won't Follow

The measure would establish a medical cannabis program in the state.

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Kansas took its first step toward legalizing medical cannabis on May 6, when the House of Representatives advanced House Substitute for Senate Bill 158 in a 79-42 vote.

The bill would permit patients with qualifying conditions to register to receive a medical cannabis card as long as they have a recommendation from a doctor whom they've been treated by for at least six months, with the exception of military veterans. The measure would also set up a licensing process for growers and dispensary owners, as well as permit the sale of medical cannabis tinctures, oils, patches or edibles, but not flower or additional smoking and vaping products, The Associated Press reported.

Before the bill entered the House, it received backlash, according to the article. Several law enforcement groups argued that there is not enough evidence to prove that medical cannabis can treat conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Parkinson's disease. 

But cannabis advocates proclaimed that it's challenging to get data on medical cannabis and its treatment due to legal status in the U.S., the article states.

During Thursday's debate, the majority of Democrats and some Republican lawmakers supported the bill; however, some Republican House members argued that legalizing medical cannabis would be the first step to adult-use legalization, while others classified cannabis as a "gateway" drug, the article states. 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, Kansas is one of few states that does not have an established medical or adult-use cannabis program. Some lawmakers in favor of the bill said the state shouldn’t wait for the federal government to act, as “Kansans are tired of waiting on Kansas being last or falling behind other states on major issues such as this,” said Republican Rep. Adam Thomas.

The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration, but Senate President Ty Masterson's spokesperson, Mike Pirner, told the AP that other bills that have appeared this week had taken top priority for the Senate, so it is unlikely a vote will happen.