CANNABIS CULTURE – The Kansas State Legislature has begun hearing arguments on House Bill 2184 to decriminalize cannabis for medical use, a bill largely spearheaded by the Kansas Cannabis Business Association (KCBA). Kansas is one of several states where cannabis is still illegal in all forms with the exception of CBD.
Two years ago the KCBA began working with a coalition of pro-legalization groups, and they will be presenting to the House as lead proponents as well as responsible for coordinating relevant testimony.
In an interview with Cannabis Culture, KCBA co-presidents Erin Montroy and Andy Ericson spoke about what they hope to achieve in this round of the legislative process. “This is the first step,” said Ericson. “Our main goal is to bring about a market for the state of Kansas, and one that brings about the most economic value, with the end goal to bring recreational (cannabis use) to the state.”
Over the last decade, Kansas has introduced more than 18 cannabis bills to try and get the cannabis market to the state, and only 1 or 2 of the bills have made it past the initial committee.
Ericson says, “Kansas has an incredibly Conservative legislature and has for quite a long time. This session we are faced against a supermajority of Conservatives, and so our goal has been to feel it out and see what we can get done.”
Hindering the movement of previous bills as well as the fact that Kansas does not have a ballot initiative, which is how most states have passed decriminalization. However, in Kansas, the only way of getting a vote pushed is to have a legislator carry it.
They also have one of the shortest session times in the country. When you factor this alongside the strong conservatorship of the state, it can be easy to see why KCBA has described this process as “a political obstacle course.”
Some of the opponents expected to speak in the next few days include law enforcement officials and even a few doctors, one, in particular, being Dr. Eric Voth. According to KCBA, Voth has testified previously that marijuana increases opiate use.
They claim he is reaping the benefits of keeping cannabis illegal because of the profit he makes from opioid addicts as his wife purportedly runs a local addictions center.
“These are some of the outright falsehoods that are being presented to lawmakers,” stated Montroy. “It is not only a bad thing to do, but it is also harmful to the process. Some of the older legislators may not know that this information is flat out untrue.”
Despite the challenges previous bills have faced, KCBA now believes that their success is inevitable. “If any bill is going to pass this session, we believe ours is the far most likely,” said Montroy. “They (the legislators) see that we are surrounded by states that do allow some form of use to their citizens. Our state was struggling economically before COVID hit, and now that it has, they are looking at an incredible deficit and looking to bring in new strains of revenue in a way that will not cost the state anything.”
In fact, cannabis has proven to be nearly recession-proof during COVID, where its market value only improves as people continue to use cannabis for medical and personal means. The benefits extend to ancillary businesses as well, such as construction and insurance companies, adding to the economy immensely and often not being calculated into the tax revenue worth of legalization.
KCBA also plans to present cannabis use during the pandemic as being important due to its anti-inflammatory effects, as well as the fact that marijuana can help reduce other COVID symptoms and improve overall mental health.
If Kansas sees Bill 2184 pass, this would require the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to have their regulations for the patient and caregiver certification within 60 days of passage. The part of the governing body that would oversee enforcement would be required to have their regulations finished within 6 months of passage. This means that within 2 months, patients would be able to start moving forward to get this treatment, and operators would be able to begin applying for licenses as early as July 1, 2021.