Senate rejects medical cannabis

The Kansas Senate rejects an attempt to dislodge a medical marijuana bill stuck in a committee. The Sunflower state is bracketed by recreational pot markets in Missouri and Colorado.

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April 29, 2024 - 3:40 PM

Sen. Cindy Holscher, a Democrat, said she was disappointed the Kansas Senate declined to allow a medical marijuana bill to be pulled from committee to the full Senate for debate. Photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — Republican members of the Kansas Senate crushed with a boot heel Friday an attempt to breathe life into legislation creating the state regulatory framework for cultivation, distribution and use of medical cannabis.

The Senate has been the stumbling block since the Kansas House approved a medical marijuana bill in 2021 that wasn’t allowed to come to a vote by Senate leadership.

In 2023, a bill was introduced in the Senate to make cannabis products available for medical use. Senate Bill 135 received two days of hearings in the 2023 session, but was idled by Senate Republicans.

Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, offered a written motion calling for that bill to be withdrawn from the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee and transferred to the full Senate for possible debate and votes.

“Someday this is going to be law in this state,” Olson said. “I would like to put it into law with good boundaries, and this bill does that.”

The vote on pulling that bill forward was 12-25 failure. It was well short of 24 necessary to force a bill to the Senate floor. A separate vote would have been necessary to determine whether the Senate bypassed leadership’s opposition to formal debate on the medical marijuana bill left to collect dust for more than a year.

Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, said it was frustrating GOP lawmakers again stood in the way of legislation that would enable Kansas veterans and people with serious health conditions from attempting to benefit from legal consumption of marijuana products. The fate of Olson’s attempt to compel action on a medical marijuana bill confirmed political challenges confronting marijuana advocates, she said.

“Over the past three weeks, scores of Kansans have reached out to their senators voicing support for medical cannabis as they have done for nearly the past decade,” Holscher said. “Sadly, supporters have faced many hurdles on this important measure.”

In March, separate legislation was introduced in the Kansas Legislature that would allow medical marijuana sales through a multiyear pilot program. There was a Senate committee hearing on that bill, which was opposed by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies. The Kansas Cannabis Chamber of Commerce also criticized the pilot program concept.

Senators on that committee decided to table the measure, which effectively killed it. With days left in the 2024 session, the failed motion by Olson put an explanation point on another year of consternation for cannabis advocates.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has endorsed the concept of making medicinal sales legal in Kansas. She’s also said the state wasn’t ready for recreational sales. Kansas is bracketed by Colorado and Missouri — border states offering legal medicinal and recreational marijuana to consumers.

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