Lawmakers plan to introduce medical marijuana legislation at start of session – The Lawrence Times

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In the second-to-last committee meeting on medical marijuana, lawmakers expressed cautious optimism

TOPEKA — After months of meeting, compiling data and listening to research, lawmakers say they’re ready to take another shot at legalizing medical marijuana.

Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, and chairman of the 2022 Special Committee on Medical Marijuana, said he plans to introduce a medical marijuana bill early in the January legislative session. Olson said the legislation would be too difficult to pass out of committee, and he planned to introduce it to the Senate as an alternative method.

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“I think what I’m going to do — and any member is more than welcome — is to take this information and create a bill,” Olson said. “And I’m going to work on a bill with a couple of members and then if somebody wants to sign on in the Senate, they’ll be able to sign that bill and introduce it at the beginning of the session.”

He encouraged lawmakers in the House to introduce similar legislation.

“I think that’s probably the best way forward,” Olson said.

The road to legalizing medical marijuana has been long and rocky, with Kansans and lawmakers divided. During Friday’s committee meeting, several members of the audience wore stickers reading, “Kansas Says ‘No,’” to register their disapproval of limited legalization.

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“Opening that window leads to all kinds of corruption,” Wichita resident Dennis Meyerowski said. He said his experience with his 19-year-old son, who uses marijuana as self-medication for mental and emotional issues, showed him the negative effects of marijuana.

“It’s because of the cannabis abuse that he has no ambition, doesn’t want to work, doesn’t want to do anything. I am still not sure about the medical benefits. I personally saw what it did to my own son,” Meyerowski said.

Wichita State seniors Laura Cunningham and Dallas Grimes say their generation has a different view of marijuana than previous generations. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

On the other side of the room, Wichita State University senior Laura Cunningham, who was there as part of a school assignment, said she supported the legalization of medical marijuana as a move for Kansas.

“I think a lot of people who smoke marijuana are very productive members of society and actually do better because of it. I think a lot of people find this balance that suits them as an individual, and that’s what really matters. I don’t think legalizing marijuana is necessarily going to cause this huge influx of people not having the motivation to participate in society,” Cunningham said.

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During the meeting, lawmakers were given an overview of research on the packaging and labeling of marijuana products, limits on the amount of medical marijuana a person can possess, local taxes on marijuana, and procedures for allowing incarcerated people to access medical marijuana. The feeling in the room seemed to be that lawmakers had been given all the information they needed, with the meeting ending about three hours earlier than expected.

“You’ve got eight state agency visits with you, you’ve got nine or 10 research memos from the Legal Research Department, you’ve got over 60 conferees who testified before this committee over two days, and you’ve reviewed a few. Bill that was alive last session and so on. In other words, you’re inundated with information,” said Mike Heim, a staff member at the Office of the Revision of Statutes, as he gave his overview to lawmakers.

In 2021, the Kansas House approved the legalization of medical marijuana, but Senate Bill 560, which would allow the cultivation, distribution, processing, distribution and purchase of marijuana and paraphernalia, died in committee in the final days of the legislative session.

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Senate President Ty Masterson said the budget and school funding legislation were higher priorities for him than medical marijuana.

Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, said she hoped medical marijuana legalization legislation would pass the Senate this time, but she remembered last year’s failure.

“The whole issue is that last year, we had a very strong bill that passed the House and Senate President Ty Masterson wouldn’t let it go forward. So I know there are different groups that have reached out to him to remind him how important this is an issue to different people. So only time will tell,” Holscher said.

The last meeting of the Medical Marijuana Committee will be held on December 15, with the committee’s recommendations then expected to be finalized.

The Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a 501c(3) public charity, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors. The Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact editor Sherman Smith with questions: [email protected] Follow the Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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