Last Update: February 4, 2014

New committee leadership brings new hope medical marijuana bills might advance

After Sen. David Haley introduced SB 9, a compassionate medical marijuana bill, in 2013, the bill was assigned to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. While the committee chairperson last year deliberately prevented the bill from being considered, the committee has a new chairperson in this year. Please take a moment to tell your state senator to support this important bill, which can provide relief to seriously ill patients in the state.  

A similar medical marijuana bill, HB 2198, was introduced in the House of Representatives last year by the Standing Committee on Vision 2020 and received a similar reception when it assigned to the Committee on Federal and State Affairs. Like SB 9, this bill has not received a hearing or a vote. However, both bills carried over to 2014 and this committee also has a new chairperson this year. Click here to send a message to your state representative and ask him or her to support this compassionate bill for patients.

Seventy percent of Kansans support medical marijuana, and it recently received a resolution in support from the Kansas Silver Haired Legislature. The state legislature should stop frustrating the clear will of the voters and allow seriously ill patients to have access to a medicine that is safer than many pharmaceuticals without fear of arrest.

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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