Proposed medical marijuana pilot, opposed by many advocates of marijuana reform, tabled


The Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have created a pilot medical marijuana program.

The program, if enacted, would become one of the most restrictive in the country. It would tightly limit who could grow, process and distribute marijuana in a way that opponents said creates a monopoly for the company that requested the bill’s introduction, Kansas Natural Remedies.

“Designed to monopolize the medical cannabis industry and unnecessarily restrict patient access, SB 555 is illegal, unfair and fraught with contradictions. It hands over all of what should be available business opportunities to just four companies,” said Sarah Stephens, of the Kansas Cannabis Chamber of Commerce. “Those four companies are then legally allowed to monopolize medical cannabis by growing, processing and distributing.”

Smoking or vaping the marijuana would remain illegal, and the products would only be available to people with one of 14 qualified conditions. Unlike other states that use marijuana dispensaries, medical marijuana would be distributed at pharmacies.

The bill’s proponents included the Kansas Pharmacists Association, a handful of private citizens and Kansas Natural Remedies, which is the largest hemp producer in the state. They said that the bill addresses concerns about allowing smoking, establishing too low of barriers for patients and creating a gateway to full legalization.

“This is not an opening for a recreational cannabis program, and our polling shows that there is little desire by Kansans to pass a recreational cannabis program in Kansas,” wrote Sam Jones, a lawyer representing Kansas Natural Remedies. “This is truly and simply a medical program that will give Kansas patients the medical freedom to choose medical cannabis instead of prescription narcotics to treat their illness.”

Organizations opposed the bill for a range of reasons. Some groups, like those representing law enforcement agencies, opposed any medical marijuana measures while medical cannabis advocates called the bill too narrow.

The Kansas House passed a medical marijuana bill in 2021, but the Senate never considered it. Since then the Senate has been more considered the more hesitant chamber on this issue, but Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, signaled that the issue is likely to come up again.

“It has been my hope to have sincere discussions about a policy framework that combines meaningful regulation with legitimate and safe delivery of medical benefits to the people who need it, thereby avoiding the mistakes made by several of our neighboring states who are now facing severe consequences from which they may never emerge,” Masterson said. “Unfortunately, the hearing demonstrated there were concerns with the bill presented and approaches that deviate from that framework.

As reported in the Topeka Capital Journal


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