Governor Kelly supports medical cannabis; legislature convenes for 2020 session
Last update: January 14, 2020
The legislature convened for its 2020 session on January 13. Gov. Laura Kelly (D), who has repeatedly voiced her support for medical cannabis, has made it part of her personal agenda for 2020.
Still, the legislature must act in order to bring a compassionate, effective medical cannabis program to Kansas. Unfortunately, while several medical cannabis bills (HB 2163, SB 113, HB 2303, and SB 195) were proposed in 2019, none received votes. 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.
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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.
While there are a number of “CBD” products available online or in stores, these products are typically unregulated, and consumers should be cautious. Unfortunately, some products do not actually contain the amount of CBD on the label — or any at all — or they also contain THC or dangerous compounds such as heavy metals. CBD oil sold in licensed cannabis retailers in states like Colorado, with a regulated market, are subject to laboratory testing, but getting to such stores could be costly and onerous for patients 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.
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.
Given that polls show that 63% of Kansans support decriminalizing marijuana and imposing a civil fine, there is tremendous support for a further step — eliminating criminal penalties altogether. If you agree, ask your legislators to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession.
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