Lawmakers plan to introduce medical marijuana legislation early in session

Lawmakers plan to introduce medical marijuana legislation early in session

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At penultimate medical marijuana committee meeting, lawmakers express cautious optimism

TOPEKA — After months of meetings, compiling data and listening to research, lawmakers say they are ready to take another shot at legalizing medical marijuana.

Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, and chairman of the 2022 Select Committee on Medical Marijuana, said he plans to introduce a medical marijuana bill early in the January legislative session. Olson said passing legislation out of committee would be too difficult, and he planned to introduce it in the Senate as an alternative approach.


“I think what I’m going to do is – and any member is more than welcome – is take this information and create the bill,” Olson said. “And I’m going to work on a bill with a few members, and then if anybody wants to sign in the Senate, they’ll be more than able to sign that bill and bring it in at the start of the session.”

He encouraged House lawmakers to introduce similar legislation.

“I think that’s probably the best way to go,” Olson said.

The road to legalizing medical marijuana has been long and rocky, with Kansans and lawmakers divided. During Friday’s committee meeting, several audience members wore stickers that read “Kansas says ‘no'” to express their disapproval of limited legalization.

“Opening that window leads to all kinds of corruption,” said Wichita resident Denise Meirowsky. She said her experiences with her 19-year-old son, who uses marijuana as self-medication for mental and emotional issues, showed her the negative influence of marijuana.

“It leads to him having no ambition, not wanting to work, not doing anything because of marijuana abuse. I haven’t been convinced of the medical benefits yet. I’ve personally seen what it did to my own son,” Meirowsky said.

Wichita State seniors Laura Cunningham and Dallas Grimes said their generation had a different view of marijuana than previous ones. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

On the other side of the room, Laura Cunningham, a senior at Wichita State University, who was there as part of a school assignment, said she supports the legalization of medical marijuana as a step forward for Kansas.

“I feel like a lot of people who smoke marijuana are very productive members of society and function better because of it. I think a lot of people have found that balance that works for them as an individual, and that’s what really matters. I don’t think legalizing marijuana will necessarily lead to this massive influx of people who don’t have the motivation to participate in society,” Cunningham said.

During the meeting, lawmakers got an overview of research on the packaging and labeling of marijuana products, limitations on the amounts of medical marijuana a person can possess, local taxation of marijuana and procedures allowing access to medical marijuana for incarcerated persons. The feeling in the room seemed to be that lawmakers had received all the necessary information, with the meeting ending about three hours earlier than scheduled.

“You had eight visits from state agencies with you, you had nine or 10 research notes from the legislative research department, you had over 60 participants who testified in two days before this committee and you reviewed a few bills that were alive last session and so on. In other words, you’ve been inundated with information,” Office of the Statutory Reviewer staff member Mike Heim said while giving his insight to lawmakers.

In 2021, the Kansas House approved the legalization of medical marijuana, but Senate Bill 560, which would have allowed the cultivation, distribution, processing, distribution and purchase of marijuana and accessories, is died in committee during the last days of the legislative session.

Senate Speaker Ty Masterson said school budget and funding legislation was a higher priority for him than medical marijuana.

Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, said she hoped medical marijuana legalization legislation would pass the Senate this time, but recalled last year’s failure .

“The whole thing is that last year we had a very strong bill that passed the House, and Senate President Ty Masterson wouldn’t allow it to go forward. So I know that different parties have reached out to him to remind him how important this issue is to many people, so time will tell,” Holscher said.

The last meeting of the medical marijuana committee will take place on December 15, and the committee’s proposals should be finalized at that time.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a grant-supported network of news outlets and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact publisher Sherman Smith with any questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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