Kansas won’t be keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to cannabis policy reform for yet another legislative session.
State lawmakers adjourned from their final day of work for the year on May 23, as a medical cannabis proposal was left on the table by the Senate, which has continued to stall on making meaningful advances in recent years.
That inaction comes as medical cannabis is legal in 37 states, including a trio of Kansas neighbors: Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma.
Despite multiple efforts in Kansas to legalize medical cannabis this legislative session, including a House-passed bill that never gained traction in the Senate, and a Senate bill introduced by Republican Sen. Rob Olson in March, priorities were elsewhere when legislators wrapped up 2022 business on Monday.
Olson, who chairs the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, which met Monday morning, issued a statement apologizing for the lack of movement on legalization.
“Unfortunately, due to the heavy load of the committee, I regret and take responsibility for not getting this measure across the finish line this session,” he said. “I am proud of what has been accomplished since the beginning of this session, but not convinced that we have been able to fully take into account all the complexities presented by all the potential patients, experts (medical, law enforcement, industry, etc.) and agencies that will be responsible to regulate the recommendation, cultivation, production, distribution and safe consumption of substances that come from the cannabis plant.”
Olson said he will continue to work on legislation this summer, while the Legislature is out of session, with a primary objective to pass medical cannabis policy reform at the beginning of the 2023 legislative session.
Last month, Olson chaired a six-member House and Senate conference committee that met to draft a medical cannabis legalization proposal that both chambers could support following the Senate’s inaction on the House-supported bill.
Before coming together in conference committee, Olson’s sponsored legislation, Senate Bill 560, the Medical Marijuana Regulation Act, sought to include more than 20 qualifying conditions for potential patients.
Some of the key difference between efforts in the two chambers include S.B. 560’s wording to include “any other chronic, debilitating or terminal condition that, in the professional judgment of a physician, would be a detriment to the patient’s mental or physical health if left untreated,” as well as required patient-physician medical relationships, reciprocity for out-of-state patients, equity licensing and effective dates.
In Olson’s statement May 23, he commended Republican Rep. John Barker, who chairs the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, for his “energy and foresight” to advance medical cannabis legislation in the state.
Meanwhile, Kansas House Democrats released a statement May 23 demanding lawmakers remain in Topeka until their “legislative duties are complete,” listing five main items to address, including medical cannabis.
“The House passed medical marijuana in the 2021 legislative session and awaits the Senate’s cooperation to bring forward this economic boon and provide relief to ill Kansans,” the release states. “The framework is there: The conference committee must simply meet and pass out legalized medical marijuana.”
Without legalization, Kansas’ laws and penalties—some of the strictest in the nation—stipulate that possessing any amount of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months of incarceration and a max fine of $1,000, according to NORML.
Kansas is one of 13 states that has yet to legalize the commercial sale of medical cannabis without low-THC restrictions. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has repeatedly voiced her support for a regulated program, according to Marijuana Policy Project.