Kansas inches toward reform in 2016

 

Last update: May 2, 2016

 

This legislative session, Rep. John Wilson introduced a low-THC medical marijuana bill, HB 2049. Unlike other “CBD bills,” it would have provided in-state access for patients. The Kansas House of Representatives passed the bill 81-36. The Senate is considering its own bill, SB 489, to provide very limited protections to patients in possession of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil. Both chambers will attempt to agree on a compromise bill at a conference committee at the end of the session.

Whatever happens with these bills, the fact that any medical marijuana bill has advanced this far in Kansas is a significant step forward. Medical marijuana bills have been introduced for several years but have never gotten a favorable vote in either chamber.

Hopefully, this year’s debate will help the Kansas Legislature catch up with public opinion. Sixty-eight percent of Kansans support patient access to medical marijuana. Please take a moment to let your representatives know you support compassionate access to medical marijuana in Kansas as well.


Marijuana laws in Kansas

 

Both chambers of the Kansas Legislature passed bills during the 2016 session that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession. The current penalty is up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A second offense is a felony that can be punished by up to three and a half years in prison and a $100,000 fine. If one of the bills passes, it would reduce the penalty for a first offense to six months and for a second offense to one year. Because the two bills contain different provisions (in unrelated sections), a conference committee will meet at the end of the session to try to reach a compromise.

Given that recent polls show that 63% of Kansans support decriminalizing marijuana and imposing a civil fine, there is tremendous support for a more modest step to reduce penalties.

Studies have shown that harsh penalties like Kansas’ do not reduce marijuana consumption rates. Instead, they cost taxpayers money and needlessly ruin lives. Legislators around the country are beginning to understand that branding marijuana users with a life-long criminal record can hurt careers, housing, and educational opportunities. If you agree, ask your legislators to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession.


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Pending Legislation