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Kan. lawmakers move closer to vote on legalizing medical cannabis

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 11:08 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Kansas lawmakers are moving closer to a vote on legalizing medical cannabis in the state. For the first time, a bill to do that passed out of committee on Monday (March 29) and is on the way to the Full House chamber. The Federal and State Affairs committee in the Kansas House passed the bill in a gut-and-go of Senate Bill 158 Monday morning. Kansas is one of only three states without some form of a state cannabis program.

Multiple amendments were made to the bill during the process, including child-resistant packaging and prohibiting cannabis companies from advertising along state highways. Legislators also lowered the requirement for a year-long patient-physician relationship and now only requires an exam. The bill still allows employers to terminate employees for medical marijuana use and counties can also prohibit dispensaries.

The big “if” remains if enough lawmakers will support the bill in the Kansas House and Senate to pass it out of those chambers and send it to the governor. To this point, most states have created some form of program regulating the cultivation, sale and use of cannabis for medical purposes.

While medical cannabis will likely remain a tough sale in the Kansas Statehouse, legislation to make it legal is one step closer. Those supporting the effort say it signals relief.

“I think a lot of good things can come from it,” medical cannabis supporter Kelli Snider-Short said. “...I have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis and there’s a ton of research out there that shows the efficacy of cannabis for those conditions.”

Snider-Short said she experienced that firsthand while on vacation in Colorado.

“It didn’t completely make my pain go away. It made it tolerable and I was able to function better than I have been have been able to in years.”

Under the bill lawmakers are working, more than 20 conditions would quality for the states’ proposed medical cannabis program. Among those are Alzheimer’s, cancer and PTSD. Medical cannabis supporter Mark Barlow aid he was diagnosed with PTSD 16 years ago following bad car wrecks.

“For the first decade of the diagnosis, I didn’t have cannabis. I didn’t really have anything,” he said. “We tried therapy of multiple different kinds, we tried medications of multiple different kinds. Nothing was going to give me relief and cannabis did it.”

The Kansas bill takes its framework from other states with medical cannabis programs and lays out a number of restrictions and regulations. You can see other state’s regulations with medical marijuana legalization here: State Medical Marijuana Laws.

“It’s a stepping stone. I think it’s good to get some people the medication they need and the help they need right away,” Barlow said.

Some medical and law-enforcement groups have spoken against the bill, saying there are public safety and regulatory concerns. Supporters also point out the economics.

‘Create lot of jobs and I think it would just be really great for the economy as a whole,” Snider-Short said.

The bill likely wont be brought up on the House floor this week as he legislature is on a shortened schedule.

When it comes to some of the requirements being considered says a licensed physician in the state would need to complete a medical exam and sign off for their patient to qualify for the program. One change to the bill does remove the need for patients to have been with a doctor for a full year to qualify. Patients would also need to apply and be issued an identification card through the state’s health department.

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