by Therin Miller | October 18, 2022
Three separate sessions set by Kansas lawmakers to begin this week are intended to inform proposed legislation to legalize medicinal marijuana in the state, which may be voted on in 2023.
As they prepare a reform package for next year's session, members of the Special Committee on Medical Marijuana, a bicameral legislative panel formed in June, will hear from state officials, law enforcement, proponents, and opponents.
The first meeting will be held on Wednesday. Based on the plan, there will be a general debate regarding the legalization of medicinal marijuana and tax and charge systems, followed by testimony from the state agency, law enforcement, and local government representatives.
The committee will listen to suggestions from proponents, detractors, and impartial parties regarding the "public policy implications" of legalizing medical marijuana next week, on October 19.
The committee's suggestions for the entire legislature will then be discussed and finalized by members on November 16. These recommendations will guide the language of a legalization measure for the 2023 session.
Despite considerable momentum and the support of Governor Laura Kelly (D), supporters were disappointed that lawmakers could not pass a medical cannabis bill by the end of the 2022 session in May. However, it is hoped that the committee's work will lay the groundwork for meaningful action when the legislature reconvenes. The Senate president and House speaker choose members of the special panel.
House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D) admitted that despite the House voting to legalize medical marijuana last year, there was very little movement in the Senate and that he has "been pretty unhappy that we have failed to get a bill enacted."
This year, the Senate did convene several hearings on cannabis reform, but the senators never got around to setting up a date for a vote. Legislative leaders set up a bipartisan conference committee late in the session, but by the time lawmakers adjourned, no agreement could be reached that could be approved by both chambers.
However, Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee Chairman Robert Olson (R) stated last May that lawmakers would not be "getting this measure to the finish line this session" due to the "heavy load" his committee had to carry on other issues. Democratic lawmakers made a final push to pass medical cannabis legalization before the legislative deadline.
Members of the House and Senate Federal and State Affairs Committees had two open conference hearings in April to discuss how to combine a separate medical marijuana bill that the Senate started debating with the one that the House enacted. The House side of the legislature discussed items they wanted to maintain from their proposal and areas where they were willing to surrender to differences in the other chamber's bill at the most recent formal meeting.
The suggestions from the two chambers were already, in general, rather comparable and included many essential elements.