The Kansas governor on Tuesday spoke out strongly against the state’s continued criminalization of medical marijuana, blasting “ridiculous” laws that criminalize patients. And after the speech, a senior GOP senator, a skeptic of the reform, pledged to hold at least hearings on the matter this session.
In her annual State of the State address, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) said there is a “common way to improve health care here in Kansas, and that’s finally legalizing medical marijuana.”
Since we have not yet legalized medical marijuana, thousands of Kansans are forced to choose between breaking the law and living more comfortably every day. It is an unbearable and useless choice. #ksleg #SOTS
— Governor Laura Kelly (@GovLauraKelly) January 25, 2023
He cited a recent example of a terminally ill man whose hospital room was raided by police and given a later quashed summons to appear in court for possession of a cannabis vaporizer and extract he was using to treat pain serious. That man has since passed away.
“We all know it was ridiculous,” Kelly said. “It’s not the police’s fault – the police were just enforcing the law. This means that the law itself is ridiculous.”
The governor said the situation reminded her of an op-ed another patient — a self-described conservative and military veteran who was battling cancer — wrote last year, addressing the state Senate and urging action. The man, Dave Auble, refused to try marijuana to relieve his symptoms because he didn’t want to break the law and died weeks after the op-ed was published.
An Auble fry was present in the legislative chamber during Kelly’s speech and received a standing ovation from lawmakers when the governor acknowledged him.
“Every day, thousands of Kansans are forced to choose between breaking the law and living without pain. It’s an unbearable and utterly pointless choice,” Kelly said. “Let’s do better in honor of Dave. In honor of kids having the most seizures a day. let’s do it now.”
A growing majority of physicians believe that medical marijuana should be part of pain management and palliative care. Every day, thousands of Kansans are forced to choose between breaking the law and living more comfortably. It is an unbearable and useless choice. #ksleg
— Kansas Dems (@KansasDems) January 25, 2023
“That’s not to say that legalizing medical marijuana won’t be complex. Of course it will,” he continued. “We will need to have effective safeguards in place to ensure that it is used appropriately and that it is not abused. fair and common-sense solution”.
“Thirty-nine other states understood this. Surely Kansas can do that too.
Following the speech, Senate President Ty Masterson (right) held a press conference addressing the governor’s call for medical cannabis to be legalized.
He was dismissive of the stories Kelly shared about patients, calling one an “interesting example,” but not one that necessarily moves the needle for him. “I won’t be ashamed to do it because of some bad examples.”
That said, he acknowledged there is a “role for potential palliative care” and “there will be bills, there will be hearings.”
This is remarkable given Masterson’s resistance to the issue. A spokesman for the Senate president said last year that medical cannabis reform was “not a priority,” though he acknowledged the issue was “maturing.”
The story of the man whose hospital room was raided for cannabis has also prompted a new call for reform from Kansas Democrats, who worked to push for the legalization of medical marijuana in recent sessions but failed to have it promulgated.
— Kansas Senate Democrats (@kssenatedems) January 25, 2023
The Kansas House of Representatives passed a medical marijuana bill in 2021, but it later stalled in the Senate. However, the latter chamber has held hearings on the matter.
Members of a special committee held a final meeting on medical marijuana issues last month with the intent of briefing reform legislation expected to be introduced at this session.
The Special Committee on Medical Marijuana, whose members visited a Missouri cannabis growing facility last month as part of their work, looked into the wide range of issues they have discussed with officials and experts in recent months.
The bicameral committee, which formed in June, met for an initial meeting in October that included state officials, law enforcement agencies and an Oklahoma medical cannabis regulator who expressed their views on the matter.
Potentially complicating reform efforts this session is the fact that Senator Robert Olsen (R), who has spent a lot of time on the study of medical cannabis as leader of the special group, was replaced this session as chair of the committee on the federal and state affairs of the Senate, which has jurisdiction over the matter.
Also, Assemblyman John Barker (R), who worked on the issue as chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, lost his candidacy in the primary last year and is no longer in the legislature.
Then-House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D) and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst (D) said last year they wanted to let voters decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical and adult use in the state .
The governor, for his part, previously promoted a separate proposal that would have legalized medical cannabis and used the resulting revenues to support Medicaid expansion, with Rep. Brandon Woodard (D) filing the measure on behalf of the governor.
— Brandon Woodard (@Woodard4Kansas) January 25, 2023
Kelly said he wants voters to lobby their representatives to pass the reform.
Following President Joe Biden’s announcement of pardons for individuals who have committed federal marijuana possession offenses and imploring governors to follow suit, Kelly said his administration is “focused on legalizing medical marijuana so that Kansans with serious illnesses should no longer suffer.
He added that they “will continue to consider all clemency and pardon requests based on a thorough and thorough review of individual cases.”
The governor also said in 2020 that while he would not personally support legalizing adult use, he would not rule out signing the reform into law if a reform bill landed on his desk.
Massachusetts and New York lawmakers introduce drug decriminalization bills for 2023
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.
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