Marijuana is a progressive leaf, quickly making itself available all over the nation. While only a handful of states have voted to legalize recreational weed, most of the US offers medicinal cannabis. Unfortunately for those who live in the Kansas, pot remains prohibited. There may be no place like home, but there’s no place for hemp either.
However, this is the year that things might change, at least if Kansas lawmakers (and many of their citizens) have a say.
Medical Marijuana on the Docket in Kansas
According to US News, lawmakers in Kansas were thinking about legalizing medical marijuana for those who have certain medical conditions. The bill, recently heard by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, would have allowed Kansas to join the other states that offers medical cannabis in some capacity.
Instead, lawmakers opted to amend the bill to allow medical professionals to prescribe and dispense “non-intoxicating cannabis medicine.”
Supporters of the original bill argued that it offers people with complicated conditions alternative treatment options. People with seizures, for instance, can benefit from wider access to medical marijuana. People in pain can use cannabis as an alternative to narcotics, drugs that are more dangerous, deadlier, and more addictive.
Those against the original bill argued that legalizing medical marijuana makes stopping illegal use more difficult. Yet, illegal use is already happening, even without a medical marijuana program implemented. If the War on Drugs has taught us anything, it’s taught us that if people want to use drugs, they’ll find a way to get them.
Yet, those opposed argue that the amended version – the one that allows for the use of non-psychoactive marijuana components – is a more appropriate first step.
If the initial bill had been passed, opponents feared its ability to compound an already existing opinion; people with medical cards will buy pot and give it to people not suffering from health ailments. There is a way to thwart this, of course: legalize medically and recreationally.
Medically is much more likely to happen in the near future – Kansas isn’t going to jump straight to recreational legalization without dipping its toe into the waters of medicinal cannabis.
Kansas has already taken some steps forward – it’s not exactly welcomed weed into the living room, but it’s at least invited it into the foyer. Last year, the Kansas Legislature enacted HB 2462 – it took effect on July 1, 2016. This bill reduced penalties for first-time marijuana possession by half, reducing it from one year to six months in jail (still extreme by most standards). A second offense was reduced too – from a felony to a misdemeanor with a maximum jail stay of one year.
There are also bills going down the pike that would reduce punishment for possession of some marijuana paraphernalia
This is what the citizens want – polling shows that 63% of Kansas residents support decriminalizing pot and imposing a civil fine instead of criminal punishments. This thinking aligns with the rest of the country and yanks Kansas up the ladder of progression.
What the Past Tells Us about Kansas
Still, marijuana legalization – even on the medical level – isn’t a given any time soon; previous attempts to legalize on any level have failed. The Kansas government killed a bill in 2016 that would have opened the door to dispensaries. This time around, however, the budgetary concerns might leave lawmakers singing a different tune.
Cannabis is a profitable business – Colorado surpassed the billion-dollar mark last year, which translated into hundreds of million in tax revenue. Kansas can certainly benefit from anything that pads the budget – this may leave them knocking on Mary Jane’s door with the proverbial palms out.
Senator David Haley, a democrat, cites Colorado’s influx as a reason for Kansas to follow suit. He went on record to say, “There is no arguing with the data that it’s now available for many states,” he says.
“In many ways, we’re broke. And we need to look at other opportunities. We are an agricultural state already. We are best known for that – it’s just a sold link between who we are already.”
Of course, Haley’s statement is accurate – Kansas is known for glistening, blond wheat fields as far as the eye can see. Crops are part of the culture and, for many, the cannabis crop makes a perfect addition.
Besides, with other states legalizing, it’ll become more difficult for Kansas to stop illegal use. Despite the tight grip we all have on our steering wheels as we drive across the state lines with cannabis in tow, it’s not hard to evade the authorities. They can’t stop us all and so they won’t try.
Even Kansas republicans are opening their minds – they’ll following the lead, need, and want of the citizens they represent, which is exactly what politicians are supposed to do. Those in Kansas have grown more interested in the benefits of medical marijuana and that’s giving republicans pause in the name of pot. But many want more information before they go all in.
This is easier said than done; a lot of the evidence surrounding the benefits of marijuana is anecdotal – studying cannabis is hard, expensive, and risky for those in certain careers. Before the benefits of marijuana can fully be realized, it needs to be legalized. When people are free to research it, its true potential will be discovered.
In the meantime, at least Kansas is at the point where they’re saying, “There could be something to this,” rather than keeping the cannabis door closed entirely. Kansas will likely start small, but at least they’re willing to start somewhere.