Members of the Kansas House of Representatives voted to approve a bill on Thursday that would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. The measure, Senate Bill 158 (SB 158), was passed in the House by a vote of 79 to 42.
The Kansas Senate approved SB 158 on March 25 and then sent the measure to the House, where it was amended by lawmakers. The bill will now head back to the upper chamber so that senators can consider the changes made in the House.
“The state of Kansas is finally catching up to the twenty-first century,” said Rep. Louis Ruiz, the ranking Democrat on the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. “Kansans need to have access to all possible health options available to them, especially if they are experiencing chronic illnesses. This bill will do exactly that. Many of our neighboring states have passed similar legislation. It’s time for us to do the same.”
Under SB 158, registered patients and caregivers would be permitted to buy up to a 90-day supply of medicinal cannabis products at a time. Patients would not be permitted to smoke or vape medical marijuana. The specific amount of cannabis would be determined by state officials, who would be tasked with drafting the rules and regulations for the medical marijuana program by July 1, 2023.
Rep. Adam Thomas said that he saw the issue as an opportunity for lawmakers to be responsive to their constituents.
“Kansans are tired of Kansas falling behind on major issues like legalizing medical marijuana and we can prove we can do it better,” the Republican lawmaker told his colleagues in the House.
Republican House Majority Whip Blake Carpenter said on Thursday morning that he believed that lawmakers could come together and reach a compromise on the measure before the end of the current legislative session.
“I think we have high expectations for this type of bill and we can work on it jointly, together to stay out of the weeds,” Carpenter said.
Senate Approval for SB 158 Seems Unlikely
However, the bill is unlikely to be taken up again by the state Senate before the session ends, according to reports in local media. For activists including Lisa Sublett, who would like to use medicinal cannabis to treat an autoimmune disorder, it will probably be at least another year of waiting. Nonetheless, she is happy with the progress made in the legislature this year.
“It’s been a long haul, a long fight,” said Sublett, who has been campaigning for cannabis policy reform for 10 years. “Even though it’s not everything I would want, it’s a starting place.”
Public opinion polling has shown that more than 65% of Kansas residents support legalizing medical marijuana. House Democratic Minority Leader Tom Sawyer said that his party would continue to deliver what the people have said they want.
“Kansas has needed this for a long time,” said Sawyer. “This is well overdue, but we’re not finished yet. We will continue to put the pressure on to make sure this bill becomes a reality. The bipartisan coalition led by Democrats that stepped up in committee and on the House floor to pass this bill worked extremely hard to ensure the majority of Kansans’ voices are heard. I’m really proud of the work they’ve done here.”
If SB 158 is taken up by the Senate and passed during the current legislative session, the measure would head to the desk of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who is in favor of legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis.
“Legalizing medical marijuana is commonsense, broadly popular policy that would improve Kansas’ overall health and economy while we recover from COVID-19 and beyond,” Kelly said in a statement on Thursday.