Kansas House approves medical marijuana; Senate won’t follow

May 7, 2021 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House voted for the first time Thursday to legalize medical marijuana in the state, but Republican leaders signaled the Senate wouldn’t consider the bill in the final days of the legislative session.


Before the House advanced the measure on a 79-42 vote, Senate President Ty Masterson’s spokesperson, Mike Pirner, told The Associated Press that a budget bill and school funding legislation have emerged as higher priorities for the Senate this week.

Thirty-six states allow medical marijuana and Kansas is only one of three states that doesn’t have a comprehensive medical or recreational marijuana program or allow limited medical use of low THC cannabidiol products, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website. Some Kansas lawmakers in favor of the bill said the state shouldn’t wait for the federal government to act.

“Kansans are tired of waiting on Kansas being last, or falling behind other states on major issues such as this. And it’s time we end that and we show our people that Kansas can do it better,” said Rep. Adam Thomas, an Olathe Republican.

The House vote Thursday marked the first time Kansas legislators passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in either chamber, according to the Legislature’s research staff. Before a House panel approved the bill in March, previous proposals had failed to even pass out of committee.

The bill would allow patients and caregivers to register to get medical marijuana identification cards for a list of conditions that include cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The measure would have also set up a licensing process for growers and dispensary owners. Medical marijuana could be sold as oils, tinctures, patches or potent edibles, but not in smoking or vaping products.

During Thursday’s debate, support came mostly from Democrats and some Republican lawmakers who said many of their constituents support medical marijuana legalization. But some GOP House members expressed concern that passing the bill into law would be the first step to legalizing recreational pot, and a few others adamantly opposed the bill, calling marijuana a dangerous “gateway” drug.

Rep. Pat Proctor, a Leavenworth Republican, said he was concerned that passing the bill into law would set up the infrastructure for recreational marijuana.

“With these dispensaries, all they got to do is, you know, change your name to ‘pot store’ from ‘dispensary’ and they’re ready to go,” Proctor said.

Before the measure made its way to the House, it received pushback, mainly from law enforcement groups that say that there’s not enough evidence that marijuana can treat medical conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease.

During the debate, some Republican lawmakers cited that the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin and LSD, with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

Rep. Russ Jennings, a Republican from Lakin in southwest Kansas, said that Kansas should have waited for Congress to act on medical marijuana legalization before debating on the bill. He called passing the bill a “terrible message in a nation that is governed under the rule of law.”

But medical marijuana advocates note it’s been tough to get evidence due to pot’s legal status in the U.S. Parents of children with disabilities have testified to lawmakers that marijuana would help relieve symptoms such as seizures. Veterans pushing for the bill say marijuana has reduced trauma-induced dreams by helping them get a deep sleep.

The bill would require physicians to have a six-month relationship with a patient before recommending marijuana, with an exception for military veterans.

Local government officials would be able to ban dispensaries in their jurisdictions.


Andy Tsubasa Field is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.


On Twitter, follow Andy Tsubasa Field at https://twitter.com/AndyTsubasaF


Editors: This story originally moved May 6 and has been corrected to show that the National Conference of State Legislature says Kansas is one of three states that doesn’t have a comprehensive medical or recreational marijuana program or allow limited medical use of low THC cannabidiol products, not one of three without a comprehensive medical or recreational program.