Lawmakers in Kansas have for the past two years mostly ignored bills that would have that state join 18 states and the District of Columbia in legalizing marijuana for medical uses. But that hasn’t stopped Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City) from introducing Senate Bill 9 this legislative session — and it appears a big majority of state residents support Haley’s plan.
Seventy percent of Kansans polled said the state should legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes, according to a SurveyUSA poll published this month by KWCH, Channel 12, reports Rhonda Holman at The Wichita Eagle. Just 28 percent of respondents were against allow marijuana for medicine.
“It’s just going to be a matter of time before all of this country has it, and I just don’t want Kansas to be the last state to enact it,” Haley said, report Chris Oberholtz and Amy Anderson at KCTV 5. “That’s how we’re going to grow as a country. The question is, how long it takes before Kansas will join what will be the rest of the country, or will we be one of the leaders.
“I do know people who are suffering from cancer, nausea from chemotherapy drugs, who’ve said they don’t like breaking the law just to use marijuana … a natural holistic substance,” Haley said.
Haley’s bill would allow patients with certain medical conditions to privately possess up to six ounces of pot and 12 marijuana plants in their homes, provided they are authorized by their physicians.
It also authorizes the Kansas Department of Public Health to regulate and license “medical marijuana compassion centers” (dispensaries) to provide cannabis to qualified patients. The department would limit the amount of dispensaries in any given area.
According to the poll, half of Kansans (50 percent) said doctors should be able to prescribe cannabis to any patient who needs it, while 28 percent said marijuana should be allowed only for the terminally ill. Nineteen percent said it should be available to anyone with a serious illness.
But, interestingly enough, the relaxed attitudes toward marijuana didn’t extend to recreational use, with 58 percent saying Kansas shouldn’t join Colorado and Washington state in legalizing marijuana for all adults.
In previous years, medical marijuana legislation has been denied a hearing in the Public Health and Welfare Committee. It doesn’t look much better this year.
“I don’t think the Legislature would be for it,” said Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, blithely ignoring 70 percent of her own constituents. “You have to look at the opportunity costs.”
The execrable Pilcher-Cook is the Republican chair of the Public Health and Welfare Committee, which means she has to power — and apparently the plan — to squelch any hearing on the legislation again this year.
House Speaker Ray Merrick, another Republican, actually chuckled when asked about the issue; evidently Speaker Merrick doesn’t see it as a serious issue when seriously ill patients are denied the medication that would help them the most.
“I heard yesterday that’s floating around out there,” Speaker Merrick said dismissively of the medical marijuana bill. “I don’t know if we’ll get to it.”
You can contact Speaker Merrick’s office (to politely inform him of the facts surrounding medical marijuana, and of your support for it) at , call 913.894.4014, or send snail mail to 6874 West 164th Terrace, Stilwell, KS 66085.
“I don’t understand the opposition,” Senator Haley said, reports Tim Carpenter at The Topeka Capital-Journal. “Kansas is a conservative state, but this is not a conservative or liberal issue. This is a public-safety issue.
“Many of the opioids and other narcotics these patients take now carry serious side effects and cause thousands of accidental overdose deaths every year,” Senator Haley pointed out. “Why criminalize it for people who are just wanting the medicinal value of marijuana?”
According to Senator Haley, marijuana — like any medicine — isn’t totally harmless, but the side effects are milder than with pharmaceuticals, and there is no fatal overdose threat with pot.
Supporters say they are still hopeful and don’t plan on giving up.
Kansans who use marijuana for any purpose currently face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine for a first-offense possession conviction under current law. Subsequent convictions can get you three years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Cultivating just one marijuana plant can get you 17 years in prison.