Some states have been more receptive to marijuana law reform than others – and now over half of the country has access to medical marijuana. One of the next states that may be willing to look past their conservative views and put “Reefer Madness” era fears aside to consider the possibility of legalization might be Kansas. Senator David Haley has introduced medical marijuana bills in the past, but this year he believes that they have a better chance of opening a real discussion on the opportunities available to the state with overall legalization.
“We are in a very conservative state that requires a greater learning curve,” Senator Haley said. “Not to demean the intellect of the average Kansas legislator, but we are more, as a body, more conservative and averse to change or to accept the new ideas accepted by legislatures of other states.”
This year Haley intends to introduce two separate marijuana legalization bills – one that would make medical marijuana legal, and one that would legalize, tax and regulate the plant for adult use. The medical marijuana bill – which is more likely to pass if either make it out of committee – is compared to the medical marijuana laws in Colorado. It would make medical cannabis available to patients with a qualifying condition (a specific list has not been mentioned yet) with a written recommendation from a physician.
The second bill takes a much more broad approach – suggesting the state look at legalization of the plant in general, making it available for adult recreational use and taxing and regulating the commercial cultivation and retail sale of the plant. While many lawmakers may still be opposed to this idea, Haley aims to remind them that the state is in need of additional income and jobs and that legalization has significantly improved the economy in Colorado and other states where it is legal for adult use.
“I am not a huge fan of decriminalization, especially if we are trying to tax and regulate,” he said. “Part of my fight is to keep marijuana out of the hands of young people, children. Decriminalization does not address that. Legalization and regulation will, as we have seen in Colorado and other states. It helps reduce the use of marijuana by young people.”
It’s nice to see a lawmaker who is not afraid to take the jump and ask his fellow legislators to – at the very least – consider what legalization may be able to do for the state. Even better is the hope to bypass the “middle ground” of decriminalization that many states choose to start with in order to reduce arrests because – as Haley pointed out – decriminalization doesn’t solve the whole problem, only a very small part of it.
Whether either of these bills will find themselves working their way through both chambers we will have to wait and see – but at the very least there is probably a good chance the medical marijuana bill will see more progress than efforts in the past and the discussion will finally be on the table when it comes to full on legalization. It may be a scary concept for lawmakers to consider, but clearly the majority of the country agrees that it’s time for change – and Kansas patients, activists and advocates for cannabis are sure to be keeping a close eye on these bills once they are introduced.