A 90-day special legislative session in Kansas could very likely result in a huge step forward for cannabis legalization. Momentum in the Sunflower State has been steadily building in recent years, but a poll showing nearly 70 percent of likely voters support the plant for medical use has politicians finally paying close attention.
Kansas Democrats last year passed a medical cannabis bill through the state’s House of Representatives, but Republicans in the Senate stopped the bill from advancing to Gov. Laura Kelly’s desk. This year, though, insiders believe the Republican controlled House and Senate are more motivated to play ball.
What needs to happen for 2022 action
House Democrat leaders Tom Sawyer and Jason Probst this week released constitutional amendments, which if passed would put medical and adult-use legalization on the 2022 ballot. Instead of legalizing the plant outright, Republicans that oppose cannabis can theoretically put their support behind letting voters decide.
“We’re seeing our surrounding states Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma move on the issue,” Sawyer said of legalization efforts. “It’s time to give voters their opportunity to have their say and let the legislature know how they feel.”
“We know that Kansas wants this and we know it has wanted it for a long time,” Probst added.
Kelly, for her part, has long supported medical marijuana as a way to raise tax revenue for expanding Medicaid in Kansas. The governor, elected in 2019, believes both medical cannabis and more robust health care options are necessary for the state to better serve its estimated 488,000 residents over the age of 65.
“By combining broadly popular, common sense medical marijuana policy that will generate significant revenue with Medicaid expansion, all logical opposition to expansion is eliminated,” Kelly said last year in support of medical marijuana.
One of many states looking to legalize
Kansas is one of less than 10 remaining states without any protections in place for people using any form of marijuana. Anyone caught with a plant containing THC is subject to a misdemeanor citation and a minimum $600 fine.
In addition to Kansas, several other states are considering cannabis legalization initiatives this year. Iowa Democrats also introduced a bill last week to put recreational cannabis on November’s ballot, while cannabis advocates in Ohio, Maryland, Missouri and Arkansas and Oklahoma are all either in the signature-collecting process or actively lobbying elected officials to pass adult-use bills.