Kansas Marijuana Reform Bill Dies in Senate
Earlier this month, on May 7, 2015, headlines were made when the Kansas House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to approve HB 2049, a bill aimed at relaxing the state’s marijuana laws. With broad support in the House, many expected the bill to easily pass through the Senate, but it looks like that won’t be the case.
With the state Senate already in legislative overtime, Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce announced last week that the bill would not be considered again for the rest of the session. According to Bruce there are too many moving parts to the bill and more time is needed to study the impact of the legislation.
“We’re just going to have to take a look at that next year,” Bruce told the Associated Press. “It’s a big issue.” To most informed individuals, reducing the penalties on marijuana and legalizing hemp oil seems like a simple matter, but those skeptical of marijuana often require an obscene amount of discussion before making a decision.
Under HB 2049, first time marijuana possession would be considered a class B misdemeanor, a second offense would be a class A misdemeanor and a third offense would be a level 5 felony. As far as marijuana reform goes, this is about as modest as it can get.
The bill would also authorize the Kansas Department of Agriculture, either alone or in-coordination with an educational institute, to cultivate and research industrial hemp. The Secretary of Agriculture would devise rules and regulations for hemp cultivation.
Finally, HB 2049 would authorize the cultivation of medicinal hemp to help patients suffering from seizures.
Needless to say, those in favor of marijuana reform are disappointed at the results in the Senate, especially when the House approved the bill with a vote of 81-36. In a last ditch effort, former Kansas gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Winn made an impassioned plea to lawmakers to take up the bill and let it come to a vote.
“Why in the world are we waiting?” asked Winn. “Why are we not having a hearing?” Winn’s pleas fell on deaf ears.
Barring some last minute miracle, HB 2049 is dead in the water and won’t see movement for another year. It is disappointing to see the Kansas Senate drop the ball on such a simple and modest bill; and it is not a good sign for those hoping to see marijuana reform from the legislature.
While marijuana reform has been dealt a small blow in Kansas, there is little the legislature can do to stem the tide of legalization. A recent Fort Hays State University poll found that 63 percent of Kansas residents favor marijuana decriminalization; and that number will only grow in the future.
With numerous voter referendums poised to hit state ballots across the nation; it is only a matter of time before the people of Kansas take notice and bypass the legislation to pass meaningful reform like so many other states have already done.