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Kansas Rejects Lower Cannabis Penalties

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Cannabis supporters were hoping that Kansas officials would lower tax penalties this week, but the House voted against a bill that would keep cannabis possession from being a felony.

According to The Associated Press, on Feb. 24, the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee voted 7-4 against a bill that would make having cannabis a misdemeanor instead of a felony, even after repeat convictions. Currently, three repeat cannabis offenses in Kansas can be convicted as a felony punishable by jail time in some cases.

The bill also originally contained language that released anyone currently in prison for cannabis possession, however, it failed to clear the committee. Unfortunately, it will be a year until the topic is picked up again. “I thought this was mild enough that it might get through the committee,” said Rep. Boog Highberger. “I can’t explain it.” Highbereger was a supporter of the bill.

Rep. Stephen Owens expressed his own personal reasoning against the bill, “I still don’t believe that marijuana should be legalized,” said Owens according to the Associated. “I believe this was a step in that direction.”

As of now, no legislative committees in Kansas have taken up the bill, but another House panel, the Federal and State Affairs Committee, is having a different cannabis bill drafted for this legislative session as well.

Those who struck down the bill claimed that cannabis policy is already pretty lenient in their opinion, as third offenders technically have other, violent chargers, and most people are just first or second offenders. Still, even those who don’t oppose full legalization saw this as a sensible and mild move.

Despite its liberal neighbors in Colorado, Kansas has been very slow to embrace legalization. The state is finally supporting hemp grown by local universities, but even hemp farmers can still receive felonies. It may be a while before they even support medical legalization or decriminalization.

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