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Kansas House advances medical marijuana measure; heads to Senate next

Medical Marijuana Shrinking Market
Posted at 3:56 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 11:05:32-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas House of Representatives voted Thursday to advance a measure that would make medical marijuana legal in the state.

The bill, which passed by a margin of 79-42, now heads to the Kansas Senate. If it passes there, it would head to Gov. Laura Kelly’s desk for final approval.

House representatives discussed the bill for much of Thursday, voting on various amendments that either restricted the bill even more or widened access to cannabis.

Currently, the bill still does not allow for smoking and vaping, which is a major point of contention for advocates and those concerned with civil rights.

The House voted down a measure that would allow smoking and vaping, but not in front of a minor.

Vincent Rivera, a criminal defense attorney, said the bill doesn't protect anyone from unreasonable search and seizure and still considers pipes paraphernalia.

"Either the bill needs to allow smoking, therefore it wouldn't become grounds anymore for searching your car, or the legislature needs to come along and pass law that says odor of marijuana is no longer grounds for a search," Rivera said.

Kelly Rippel, one of the many advocates who helped push this legislation as far as it's come, said the bill has many inconsistencies, including that the sale of "plant material" is actually included in the law.

"I can tell you from firsthand experience trying to amend it myself and with my colleagues, it's not easy. This is a really difficult piece of legislation," Rippel said.

Rippel pointed out that the indoor clean air act and tobacco 21 laws are already in place and said there should be no reason why smoking should not be allowed. Plus, many patients prefer combustible methods because it provides quicker relief.

This bill would only allow for edibles, oils, and tinctures.

Rippel said it's problematic because it's based on the state of Ohio's medical cannabis model, which he says has been heavily criticized.

"We know from looking at all the articles and data, they've had to go back and really waste a lot of taxpayer dollars to fix that program whereas we could have maybe done a few leapfrogs and prevented some issues by learning from lessons from other states," Rippel said.

The House also voted down a measure that would decriminalize possession.

Representatives also voted in favor of a list of qualifying conditions which would be reviewed every three years.

Rippel said that onus should be with the physician.

"What we've seen in other states is all of the conditions list is always expanded, added-to, and eliminated because it requires taxpayer dollars to go back and change," Rippel said. "To start off the bat that way, to allow the medical provider to recommend to patients that they deem necessary, I think, is an important step but I don't know if the political will is there."

The bill also doesn't allow for people to grow their own cannabis, like Missouri does.

The bill’s prospects in the senate weren’t immediately clear, but Thursday’s vote offers supporters of medical marijuana in the state some hope the measure will eventually pass.

Kansas is one of 13 states in the country that has not taken steps to legalize medical marijuana. Missouri voters approved medical marijuana in 2018.