For the first time, the Kansas House voted in favor last Thursday of legalizing medical cannabis in the state. However, Republican leaders signaled that the Senate would not consider the bill in the final days of the legislative session.
Before the House advanced the measure on a 79-42 vote, Senate President Ty Materson’s spokesperson, Mike Pirner, told The Associated Press that a budget bill and school funding legislation have emerged as higher priorities for the Senate this week.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, 36 states allow medical cannabis. Kansas is only one of three states that does not have a comprehensive medical or adult-use cannabis program or allow limited medical use of low THC cannabidiol products.
Some Kansas lawmakers in favor of the bill say the state should not wait for the federal government to act.
“Kansans are tired of waiting on Kansas being last, or falling behind other states on major issues such as this,” Republican Representative Adam Thomas said. “It is time we end that and we show our people that Kansas can do it better.”
The bill would allow patients and caregivers to register to get medical cannabis identification cards for a list of conditions that include cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The measure would have also set up a licensing process for growers and dispensary owners.
Medical cannabis could be sold as oils, tinctures, patches and potent edibles, but not in smoking or vaping products.
During last Thursday’s debate, support came mostly from Democrats and some Republicans who said many of their constituents support medical cannabis legalization. Some GOP House members, such as Representative Pat Proctor, expressed concern that passing the bill into law would be the first step to legalizing recreational pot.
“With these dispensaries, all they have to do is, you know, change your name to ‘pot store’ from ‘dispensary’ and they’re ready to go.”
Others adamantly opposed the bill, calling marijuana a dangerous “gateway” drug.
Before the measure made its way to the House, it received pushback, mainly from law enforcement groups that say there is not enough evidence that cannabis can treat medical conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Parkinson’s disease.
Medical cannabis advocates note it has been tough to get evidence due to pot’s legal status in the US. In several states, parents of children with disabilities have testified to lawmakers that cannabis would help relieve symptoms such as seizures.
Veterans have also gone on record saying cannabis has reduced trauma-induced dreams by helping them get a deep sleep.
The Kansas bill would require physicians to have a six-month relationship with a patient before recommending cannabis, with an exception for military veterans, and local government officials would be able to ban dispensaries in their jurisdictions.