Kansas legislators are considering legislation which would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. Last week they heard from opponents and proponents of the bill.
Senate Bill 113 was filed by state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City. It was supported by Rep. Jim Karleskint, R-Tonganoxie. The bill would legalize medical marijuana and allow for the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries in Kansas. It would also give U.S. military veterans a 60-day advance period to use marijuana before the general population.
Kansas residents would need a recommendation from a medical professional and then would have to apply for a license from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to obtain medical marijuana under the bill.
In the midst of the push to legalize medical marijuana use, many Emporians are also pushing for the legalization of recreational marijuana use.
“It’s time they just legalize it all,” Mark Stephens of Emporia said. “Recreational, medical, it doesn’t matter. The state could be making money and have less people in jail.”
Sen. Jeff Longbine said it is unlikely recreational marijuana will be approved this session.
“I would say the chances of marijuana being legalized for recreational use this session is zero,” Longbine said. “Now, there are a couple bills we are looking at to legalize medical use of marijuana. If we can get legislation worked out on the dispensaries, there is a possibility it could be legalized.”
Proponents of Senate Bill 113, including Holland who introduced the bill, say it could assist military veterans and help address the country’s opioid epidemic.
“Make no mistake, our citizens are asking us to have access to medical cannabis because they view it as an appropriate approach for maintaining and managing their chronic pain issues,” Holland said.
Proponents of the bill testified they believed medical marijuana could assist veterans in dealing with chronic health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder often experienced by veterans.
“I would rather see someone using marijuana to manage pain instead of using opioids,” Sarah Jenkins of Emporia said. “It is more natural and doesn’t come with the risk of death by overdose.”
Opponents of the bill provided testimony to legislators as well. Opponents say they believe legalization of medical marijuana will “normalize” marijuana use, leading to an increase in other drug usage. Others expressed concern about medical marijuana not being approved by the FDA.
“We’re talking about a smoked medication, we are talking about something that is highly impure and we are talking about bypassing the FDA,” Dr. Eric Both, a primary care physician said in his testimony. “The FDA isn’t perfect, but it is our process of getting safe and effective medication in front of the public.”
Angelique Shreves of Emporia weighed in on Facebook, expressing her opposition to legalization of marijuana.
“It is a drug,” she wrote, “Drugs that cause people to get high or hallucinate should not be legalized because all of a sudden you will have people faking illnesses just so that their doctors will prescribe it to them.”
Thirty three states and Washington D.C have legalized the use of medical marijuana. This includes Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma. The Colorado Department of Revenue reports that the state has seen more than $6 billion in sales since Jan. 2014, with more than $1.5 billion in sales in each of the last two years.
No action has been taken on the bill yet and it is unclear when action may be taken.