Kansas House Rejects Amendment to Remove Cannabis from Controlled Substances List

Kansas House Rejects Amendment

Lawmakers Debate Marijuana Legalization on the Floor

On Wednesday, February 21, 2024, the Kansas House of Representatives voted down an amendment that would have removed cannabis from the state’s list of controlled substances. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Silas Miller, a Democrat from Wichita, during the discussion of House Bill 2596, which updates the state’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act to align with federal law.

The amendment sparked an impromptu debate over marijuana legalization among lawmakers, with some Democrats arguing that cannabis has medical and economic benefits, while some Republicans countered that it has no medical value and high abuse potential.

Rep. Pam Curtis, a Democrat from Kansas City, cited the example of neighboring Missouri, which legalized medical marijuana in 2018 and recreational marijuana in 2022, and claimed that the state had added $1.3 billion to its economy in just the past seven months. She also said that removing cannabis from the controlled substances list would facilitate research and reduce barriers to employment for people who use it.

Rep. Bill Clifford, a Republican from Garden City, opposed the amendment, saying that marijuana legalization is a serious issue that needs to be properly vetted through the committee process. He also pointed out that marijuana is still a Schedule I drug at the federal level, meaning that it is considered to have no medical value and high abuse potential. He said that legalizing marijuana would pose public health and safety risks, such as impaired driving and increased youth access.

The amendment failed by a vote of 41 to 80, effectively ending the push for marijuana legalization in the House for this session.

Law Enforcement Opposes Marijuana Legalization in Senate Committee

The House vote came a day after the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee tabled a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana in Kansas. Senate Bill 135, sponsored by the committee itself, was shelved after hearing testimony from several opponents, including state law enforcement representatives.

Kansas House Rejects Amendment

Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter, who spoke on behalf of the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association, the Kansas Association of the Chiefs of Police, and the Kansas Peace Officers Association, said that the state of Kansas cannot follow the path of other states that have legalized marijuana. He argued that no state has found the right balance between creating tax revenue and funding enforcement and programs, such as rehabilitation services. He also raised concerns about how to measure impairment and enforce DUI laws for marijuana users.

Other opponents of the bill included the Kansas Medical Society, the Kansas Family Policy Alliance, and the Kansas Catholic Conference. They cited various reasons for opposing medical marijuana legalization, such as lack of scientific evidence, ethical concerns, and moral values.

Only two Democrats on the committee voted against the motion to table the bill, which means that no further action will be taken on it for the rest of the year, unless the committee decides to revisit the issue.

Proponents of Marijuana Legalization Remain Hopeful

Despite the setbacks in both chambers of the legislature, proponents of marijuana legalization in Kansas remain hopeful that the issue will gain more support in the future. They point to the growing public acceptance of marijuana across the country, as well as the potential benefits for patients, consumers, and businesses.

Lee Bretz of Great Bend, who testified in favor of Senate Bill 135, said that he believes marijuana legalization will happen in Kansas eventually. He said that he witnessed the benefits of marijuana for his father, who suffered from inoperable cancer and used THC-infused products to ease his pain. His father passed away in December 2022, shortly after being issued a ticket by police for using marijuana in his hospital room.

Bretz said that he hopes that Kansas lawmakers will listen to the stories of people like his father and reconsider their policies on marijuana. He said that he thinks that marijuana is a safer and more effective alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs, and that it could help many people who are suffering from various conditions.

In the meantime, some cities in Kansas have taken steps to decriminalize marijuana possession, such as Wichita, which did so in September 2022. According to Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan, the city’s policy is to issue a citation and a fine for first-time offenders who possess less than 32 grams of marijuana, instead of arresting them and booking them into jail. He said that the policy change has freed up resources and time for officers to focus on more serious crimes.

Sullivan also said that if and when medical marijuana legislation is passed at the state level, he will review the specific wording of the bill and make the necessary changes to the city’s policy and training.

By Amelia Brooks

Amelia Brooks is a seasoned senior content writer at CBD Strains Only, specializing in the cannabis niche. With a wealth of experience and a keen interest in the therapeutic properties of cannabis, Amelia brings a unique perspective to her writing. Her insightful articles aim to educate and inform readers about the latest trends and developments in the cannabis industry.

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