Medical marijuana bills stall — time for renewed effort
Despite the widespread acceptance of medical marijuana around the country, certain key politicians in the Kansas Legislature seem more inclined to prevent a medical marijuana bill from even being considered. After the introduction of Senate Bill 9 by Sen. David Haley, the bill was assigned to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. A short time later, the chairperson for the committee, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, told the Kansas City Star it was a waste of time and money for the legislature to even consider the bill. She never even gave the bill a hearing, much less a vote, in a committee apparently established to consider how to improve the health and welfare of the state’s citizens.
A second medical marijuana bill, this one in the House of Representatives, received a similar reception. The House Standing Committee on Vision 2020 introduced House Bill 2198, which was then referred to the Committee on Federal and State Affairs. Like SB 9, it never received a hearing or a vote, and it stalled soon after it was presented for consideration.
Please take a moment to remind your elected officials that the needs of seriously ill patients in the state should not be ignored. If you or someone you know could benefit from medical marijuana and would like to get involved, please let us know. Also, if you're a doctor, patient, law enforcement officer, or clergy member, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can be particularly influential in informing Kansas' legislators. Please include your zip code so we can determine what legislative district you are in.
Marijuana laws in Kansas
Kansas has perhaps the most draconian marijuana laws in the country. Possession of any amount of marijuana — even a single gram — can land Kansans in prison for up to a year, as well as a $1,000 fine. If they're caught with marijuana again, they could be convicted of a felony and face up to three and a half years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Studies have shown that harsh penalties do not affect consumption rates, but they do impact thousands of families and cost taxpayers for arrests, incarceration, and legal costs. Perhaps it's time for a different approach. Police efforts to enforce criminal laws against marijuana consumers take time and resources away from investigations of serious crime. Based on 2011 figures reported by state law enforcement to the FBI, there were over 5,100 arrests for marijuana-related offenses during the year, most of them for possession. During the same period, 69% of all robberies and 80% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved by law enforcement. And did you know that African-Americans are nearly four and a half times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though both races consume marijuana at similar rates? For more information on how the war on marijuana unfairly discriminates against African-Americans, check out the ACLU’s 2013 report.
Many legislators around the country are now beginning to understand the benefits of a taxed and regulated approach to marijuana access for adults. If you agree it's time to take marijuana off the criminal market, legalize it for adults, and tax and regulate it similarly to alcohol, be sure to tell your state senator and representative.
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