Medical cannabis bill dies in short special session
Last update: June 18, 2020
After suspending its 2020 session early amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislature held a short special session on June 3. Unfortunately, a bill — HB 2017—that would have legalized medical cannabis in the Sunflower State did not advance. The focus now shifts to 2021.
It is past time Kansas join the majority of states and establish a well-regulated, compassionate medical cannabis program. Kansas is now surrounded on three sides by states that have legalized medical cannabis or cannabis for adult use, and 68 percent of Kansans support the medical use of cannabis.
Gov. Kelly signs affirmative defense bill for low-THC CBD oils
During Kansas’ 2019 legislative session, the state took a small step forward to provide some very limited protections for certain types of low-THC medical cannabis.
The legislature passed and Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed SB 28, “Claire and Lola’s Law,” into law. The new law provides an affirmative defense for possession of CBD-rich oils with up to 5% THC. Affirmative defenses prevent convictions, but they don’t necessarily prevent a person from being arrested and hauled into court. SB 28 also bars the state Department of Children and Families from removing a child over CBD oil use. However, SB 28 does not allow for the legal sale or production of cannabis oils.
Kansas passes law allowing CBD products with zero THC
In 2018, Kansas finally passed a law acknowledging the medical efficacy of cannabis for the first time ever, leaving Idaho standing alone as the only state in the union yet to do so. The law, SB 282, was signed by former Gov. Jeff Colyer and changed the definition of “marijuana” to exclude cannabidiol (CBD).
However, because state law separately bans tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), it is difficult and risky for medical cannabis patients to try to take advantage of this provision, because most CBD products contain at least trace amounts of THC (“hemp” is sometimes defined as 0.3% THC or less). The bill — like SB 28 in 2019 — did not provide for in-state access to CBD oils in Kansas.
Despite its limitations, this is a significant step forward for Kansas. Hopefully, it is also a step towards meaningful access to regulated and tested medical cannabis, which studies show can provide relief for patients suffering from serious conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy and is linked to a 25% reduction in opiate overdose deaths.
ACLU study shows racially disparate enforcement
An ACLU report found that in 2018 Black people were 4.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in Kansas, despite the fact that both races consume marijuana at about the same rate. In fact, Kansas ranks 12th in the nation for largest racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests.
While legalization does not eliminate disparities, it dramatically reduces the total number of cannabis arrests — and thus the damage done by unequal enforcement. Encouragingly, five of the seven states with the lowest disparities had previously enacted legalization laws. Ask your lawmakers to end cannabis prohibition!
Bills reducing penalties for marijuana and paraphernalia possession passed in 2016 and 2017
During the 2016 session, the Kansas Legislature enacted HB 2462, which took effect on July 1, 2016. It reduced penalties for first-time marijuana possession by half, from one year to six months in jail. A second offense was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year.
A lengthy bill that included a minor penalty reduction, SB 112, passed during the 2017 session and took effect May 18, 2017. It reduced the maximum penalty for possession of marijuana paraphernalia (such as grow lights) used to cultivate five or fewer plants from one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. This change did not impact the penalty for growing marijuana, which is a separate crime.