Political Obstacles Block Medical Marijuana Progress in Kansas


Governor Laura Kelly shakes hands with Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, left, and Speaker of the Senate Ty Masterson, R-Andover, before the start of the annual State of the State Tuesday. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)


Days before the start of a hearing on a medical marijuana bill already passed by the Kansas House, Senate Republicans abruptly canceled the session and moved the measure to a committee that rarely reviews the legislation, leaving the future of the proposal in question.

On Thursday, Senate Speaker Ty Masterson referred the bill to the Committee on Interstate Cooperation, a panel of leaders he chairs. Masterson’s office said procedural issues in 2021 would make it impossible to act on the House bill.

In response, Sen. Rob Olson, chairman of the federal and state affairs committee set to hear the bill on Tuesday, canceled the meeting. Just a week ago, he expressed his optimism about a bill passing the Legislative Assembly this year.

Kansas is one of 13 states in the country that has yet to legalize medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

At the end of the 2021 legislative session, the Kansas House made history by voting for the first time to legalize medical marijuana. This passed by a wide bipartisan margin.

The Kansas Senate did not hold a vote. Instead, Masterson ruled that because the House abandoned the contents of the medical marijuana bill in an unrelated Senate bill, it was “materially altered” and ineligible. He sent the bill to the federal and state affairs committee.

It’s unclear if executives discovered the disqualifying maneuver recently or when they took action in May.

The decision does not rule out action against medical marijuana this year, but it does add new political hurdles. Even before Masterson rerouted the bill, it faced a lukewarm reception from Senate Republicans.

“Medical marijuana legislation is not a priority of the Senate leadership,” Pirner said. “The topic has clearly matured and we expect it to be considered at some level this session. There are many other pressing topics on the Senate agenda.

Masterson had already been evasive about the chances of politics this year.

“It’s just new to a lot of us,” Masterson said earlier in the week. “Not a single member said it was important to them.”

The move means the Legislative Assembly will likely go back to square one, drafting a new bill that will need to clear the Senate and, once again, gain House approval. This likely pushes final action on policy until the end of the legislative session, when political maneuvering is more common.

Meanwhile, political and ideological hurdles are certain in the Senate.

“While I was in the House for the past four years, the medicinal cannabis bill and the whole situation was something I had talked to a lot of people trying to help them overcome some of the myths by to the reality of the situation,” the senator said. Cindy Holscher, a Democrat from Overland Park, said.

“Some of that work potentially hasn’t been done in the Senate.”

Last week, Masterson said he didn’t like House politics and worried the state was creating a backdoor to recreational marijuana.

“If it’s really a medicine, you want to control the amounts and make sure it’s applied to the right ailment or the right disease, just a few tighter controls,” Masterson said. “I think Oklahoma was a bit of a disaster.”

Other conservative Republicans had similar concerns.

Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, a conservative Republican from Galena, said he would only consider supporting the bill if the marijuana could be dispensed from a pharmacy, which no other state has done.

“You still have federal law that says it’s illegal to own or possess or buy a gun or ammunition if you’re using marijuana. That’s a big sticking point,” said Hilderbrand.

Despite these hurdles and the last-minute hearing cancellation, Daniel Shafton, vice president of the Kansas Cannabis Business Association, said he was confident a version of medical marijuana could pass by the end of the day. of the session.

“Whether that means it’s being moved to another committee, whether that means it’s being used for political leverage, we’re not going to speculate after three real days of sitting,” Shafton said. “No one is really worried or panicked…it makes sense that the President of the Senate wants to make sure he’s in control of this process and gets what he wants out of it.”

Speaking to reporters Friday morning, Governor Laura Kelly reiterated her support for passing the medical marijuana law this year.

“If everything else isn’t taking all the oxygen, then, yeah, I absolutely think it can (pass),” Kelly said.

Here’s what to know about the policy approved by the House last year:

Who would be eligible to use medical marijuana?

Access under the current proposal would be limited to people with certain diagnoses. If the bill passes, the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment would be authorized to add diagnoses recommended by an established advisory committee.

The diagnoses included are:

  • acquired immune deficiency syndrome

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

  • Cancer

  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy

  • Chron’s disease

  • Epilepsy or other seizure disorder

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Glaucoma

  • Hepatitis C

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Lupus

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • HIV positive status

  • post-traumatic stress disorder

  • sickle cell anemia

  • Spinal cord disease or injury

  • Tourette’s syndrome

  • Ulcerative colitis

  • Any other chronic and severe or intractable pain

How can patients obtain medical marijuana?

Unless you are a veteran or an existing out-of-state user, you would need a referral from a doctor who has treated you for at least six months.

After performing a review and issuing the recommendation, doctors would seek approval on behalf of their patient. Patients, or a caregiver, should also apply for an ID card in order to purchase medical marijuana from a state-licensed dispensary.

How can it be used?

Under current legislation, smoking, vaporizing and burning marijuana will be prohibited.

Marijuana could be sold in the following forms:

  • Oils

  • Tinctures

  • plant material

  • edible

  • Fixes

Additional forms may be approved by the KDHE Secretary with the approval of the ABC.

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Katie Bernard covers the Kansas Legislature and state government for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star as a breaking news reporter in May 2019 before joining the political team in December 2020. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.

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