A Kansas state Senate committee on Thursday voted to table a bill to legalize medical marijuana, likely killing the measure for the remainder of the year. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee voted to table the measure, Senate Bill 135, after hearing from advocates on both sides of the issue at a pair of hearings last week. Republican state Representative Mike Thompson, the chair of the panel, said later that he has no plans to bring the bill up for consideration again during the current legislative session, according to a report in local media.
After the committee voted to table the bill, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly expressed her frustration at the development. The Democratic governor, who has previously called on state lawmakers to pass a medical marijuana legalization bill, also urged residents who support cannabis policy reform to contact state lawmakers and call on them to revive the proposal.
“I am disappointed that some legislators are saying they don’t want to move forward with legalizing medical marijuana this year – effectively turning their backs on our veterans and those with chronic pain and seizure disorders,” Kelly wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “If they get their way, for yet another year thousands of Kansans will be forced to choose between breaking the law and living without pain. I encourage Kansans to call their state legislators and tell them to legalize medical marijuana this session.”
If the measure is eventually passed, Senate Bill 135 would legalize the use of cannabis for patients with one or more of 21 serious medical conditions including cancer, epilepsy, spinal cord injuries and chronic pain. Patients would be required to have a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana and pay $50 for a state identification card to participate in the program. Patients would also pay a 10% excise tax on medical cannabis purchases.
The bill would also regulate the cultivation, processing, distribution and sale of medical marijuana. Four different state agencies—the Department of Health and Environment, the Board of Healing Arts, the Department of Revenue’s Alcohol and Beverage Control (which would be renamed to Alcohol and Cannabis Control) and the Board of Pharmacy—would be tasked with oversight of the medical marijuana program. The legislation is slated to go into effect starting in July 2024, according to the text of the measure.
Prior to Thursday’s vote to table the bill, several witnesses testified before the committee about the legislation at a pair of hearings held last week. Mandy Sohosky, who identified herself as a private citizen, said that cannabis is the best option to treat the chronic migraines that she endures. A host of traditional and alternative therapies including medication, therapy and acupuncture failed to help her, prompting her doctors to prescribe opioids and powerful muscle relaxers. But after trying cannabis in a legal state, she said the pain was gone in 10 minutes.
“There is a solution for my migraines,” Sohosky told lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday. “It’s not a perfect solution, but it would help me be a more present parent for my kids. I could attend karate practice, go to choir concerts. I could be there for family movie night. There is a solution for my pain. Please allow me to use it while my kids are still young, and my parents are still alive. I have so many memories left to make. Please allow me to make them.”
Supporters of the legislation also noted that the bill would reduce the suffering of thousands of Kansans with serious medical conditions. Appearing before the committee, Alejandro Rangel-Lopez noted that 17 residents of Ford County were arrested for marijuana possession between November and February.
“These are folks my age. I recognize a lot of those names from elementary school, from high school. I graduated with a lot of them,” Rangel-Lopez said. “And it’s heartbreaking because you know what’s going to happen. They get sucked into the criminal justice system, and they end up in parole for years, if not decades. And it ruins their lives. And for what? For what? I don’t think we have anything to show for the criminalization of marijuana. So I’m tired of seeing folks suffer needlessly due to inaction from our lawmakers.”
Senators on the legislative panel also heard from groups on the other side of the issue at a second hearing on Thursday. Representatives of state law enforcement organizations including the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association, the Kansas Association of the Chiefs of Police and the Kansas Peace Officers Association attended the hearing to express opposition to the medical marijuana legalization bill.
Activist Lee Bretz, whose father was issued a ticket by police while in a hospital for terminal cancer, said the committee’s decision is only delaying the inevitable.
“It’s gonna happen, you know, in a matter of time,” Bretz said. “I just don’t know why they keep delaying it.”
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