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Historic House vote just first step for marijuana-legalization push in KS

Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 6:25 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - When it comes to the push by some to legalize marijuana in Kansas, Friday’s historic vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to decriminalize the drug nationwide is just the first step. People like Paul Johnson are encouraged.

“It’s a great day,” he said.

Eyewitness News introduced you to Johnson in August after the Kansas Highway Patrol confiscated 6.5 pounds of what he described as medical marijuana. Johnson, from Colorado, said he was staying in Wichita when he asked a friend returning from Colorado to bring him a bag full of clothes he’d left there. He said that his friend grabbed the wrong bag. Instead of clothes, it was filled with marijuana. On the trip back, his friend was pulled over by the KHP and charged with possessing the drug. Johnson later claimed the marijuana was his and his friend was convicted of a lesser crime, but Johnson said no one should be charged with a crime because he obtained the marijuana legally.

Johnson said he broke his neck in a car crash when he was a teenager and that he’s dealt with chronic pain issues for his entire life. The House vote to decriminalize marijuana on a national scale gives him hope that what he considers “medicine” will no longer be labeled a Schedule 1 drug. But Friday’s vote is only the first step.

“This is just the beginning. It still has to go through the Senate and pass, and we have to get (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell to at least listen to the bill, have hearings on the bill.” And we have to encourage our senators, Senator Moran and Marshall to support the bill if it comes to the floor,” said Kansas Representative Gail Finney, representing the state’s 84th district, which includes part of Wichita.

Passing the Republican-controlled Senate doesn’t look promising. At the state level, for years, Finney supported legislation to decriminalize marijuana in Kansas, but it never gained much momentum. She said if the bill does pass both chambers of Congress, it will allow for a more intellectual conversation at the state level.

“One of the main complaints I’ve heard is ‘because it’s on the schedule one. So, if this goes through Congress, the House and Senate, that won’t be an excuse anymore,” she said.

While the bill in Washington, D.C. moves on to the Senate, Johnson will be fighting his own battle in Kansas. He’s suing the KHP. On Tuesday (Dec. 8), a judge in Russell will decide whether his marijuana is medicine or contraband.

“I hope to do for Kansas what the kind representatives of our country did for us today,” Johnson said.

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