A Kansas House committee on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
Members of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee adopted a series of amendments before advancing the legislation in a 12-8 vote.
This is the second time that panel has approved the reform proposal this session. After passing in March, it was sent to the House floor but was then rereferred back to the committee for further consideration.
“If we should at some point in time run this on the floor, there will be a number of amendments,” Chairman John Barker (R) said at the opening of the meeting. “Some will get attached, some will not.”
Advocates are hopeful that the bill can clear the full House and Senate in the coming days during the legislative veto session.
In the committee on Tuesday, Rep. Blake Carpenter (R) filed a wide-ranging amendment that was accepted in a voice vote. It would allow counties to opt out of allowing cannabis dispensaries in their jurisdiction, protect gun rights of patients, clarify restrictions on advertising, remove housing and employment protections for patients and require a minimum six-month relationship between a patient and physician, with some exceptions, before medical marijuana can be recommended.
If cannabis is federally rescheduled, the revision calls for references in the bill to “recommendation” be changed to “prescription.” It would also make it so the state’s drug schedule would automatically change to align with any new federal classification. Further, it would make changes to the cannabis advisory board, mandate that marijuana be cultivated in a secure fashion indoors and require disclosures of any foreign financial interest in a cannabis business.
Another approved change came from the state treasurer. It would strike the requirement that a payment processing system be “closed-loop.”
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The Kansas Department of Revenue Alcoholic Beverage Control had an amendment approved that would add definitions for cannabinoid, medical marijuana product and other terms, instead of having them established by regulators at a later point. It also fixes a discrepancy in the timeline for residency requirements by uniformly setting them at four years and moves the deadline to adopt regulations back by a year to July 1, 2023.
The Health and Environment Committee introduced an amendment that also passed. It simply moves the deadline to adopt regulations and launch an educational website by a year to July 1, 2023.
The chairman also put forward an amendment that was accepted in a voice vote. The revision is technical in nature, combining “superfluous” sections and clarifying intent on requirements for licensees.
Members defeated a proposed revision that would have required dispensaries to be operated by pharmacies, made it so pharmacists would have to register with the Board of Pharmacy if they work with medical cannabis and add a section requiring the board to adopt regulations to allow pharmacies to manage dispensaries.
Overall, the legislation would establish a medical marijuana program for qualified patients. As drafted, it listed 21 conditions that would qualify patients for the program, including chronic pain, HIV and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it was amended in March to expand that list. Smoking and vaping products would be prohibited. It would also not provide for home growing.
Gov. Laura Kelly (D) has pushed a separate proposal that would legalize medical cannabis and use the resulting revenue to support Medicaid expansion, with Rep. Brandon Woodard (D) filing the measure on the governor’s behalf.
Kelly has she said she wants voters to put pressure on their representatives to get the reform passed.
While both pieces of legislation would make it so Kansas would join the vast majority of states that have legal medical marijuana markets, advocates view them as restrictive, particularly as it concerns the limited methods of consumption that would be permitted.
A separate medical cannabis legalization bill was introduced by the Senate Commerce Commerce in February, though it has not seen action beyond being referred to another panel.
The measure’s language largely reflects legislation that was introduced in the House last year. Patients would be eligible for medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation if they have a condition that significantly inhibits their ability to conduct daily activities or if the lack of treatment would pose serious physical or mental harm.
Registered patients would be allowed to grow and possess at least four ounces of marijuana. The bill would also establish a Kansas Medical Cannabis Agency to oversee the program.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.