AP NEWS

Medical marijuana advocates laying plans for next session

April 2, 2019

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates for legalizing medical marijuana in Kansas are preparing to push their cause again, as the year’s legislative session winds down without much action on several bills related to the issue.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has said she would support a “well-regulated” program, and the idea of introducing medical marijuana in Kansas appeared to gain momentum after voters in neighboring Missouri approved it in November.

This year’s legislative session in Kansas is scheduled to end next week, with a short return in May that will focus on passing the final budget, and so far only one medical marijuana bill has been given a vote, The Wichita Eagle reports . The House last week approved a bill that would provide a legal defense for medical use of CBD oil with up to 5% THC, which is the ingredient in the cannabis plant that produces a high.

Lisa Sublett, founder of the advocacy group Bleeding Kansas, said she and other advocates want a legislative committee to study medical marijuana during the summer and make recommendations before the next session begins in January.

“I hope we get an interim committee to in-depth study the issue and give us a chance to answer objections and concerns with actual data and to bring in experts,” she said.

Sublett said the bill approved by the House this session is an incremental step toward full legalization, but it’s largely symbolic because it doesn’t legalize production of CBD oil in Kansas and federal law allows only for interstate sales of CBD derived from hemp — a form of cannabis — with 0.3% or less THC.

A bill introduced this session that would allow much broader legalization of production, sales and use of medical marijuana has not received a hearing.

Some doctors oppose the legalization of medical marijuana because they don’t know how safe it is and say cannabis products should have to undergo the Food and Drug Administration approval process. Law enforcement groups also oppose its introduction, saying it would be impossible to keep legal medical marijuana from being diverted for illegal use.

Kansas Sen. Tom Holland, a Democrat from Baldwin City, said pressure might be growing as more nearby states approve legalization.

Missouri’s health department is formulating rules so the first patient applications for medical marijuana can be issued in June and the first dispensary licenses granted by the end of the year. Voters in Oklahoma did the same last June and a petition is circulating in Nebraska to get medical marijuana on the ballot next year. Colorado was one of the first states in the country to legalize medical marijuana.

“Once again Kansas is sticking out,” Holland said. “People are very cognizant of that. ... It’s growing from a ‘Gee, that would be nice to have access to,’ to ‘boy they’re demanding it’ and they’re starting to get really frustrated Kansas isn’t keeping up with the rest of the nation.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com