Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jan 2013
Source: University Daily Kansan, The (Lawrence, KS Edu)
Copyright: 2013 The University Daily Kansan
Note: Accepts letters to the editor only from students, faculty, 
staff and members of the Lawrence community
Author: Emily Donovan
Note: Emily is a freshman majoring in English and studying Sociology and
Journalism from from Kansas City, Kan.


The Kansas state legislature doesn't care to hear about medical

After two weeks of review, the "Cannabis Compassion and Care Act" was
introduced to the House yesterday by Rep. Gail Finney (D-Wichita). The
bill, originally introduced by Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City, Kan.)
would legalize medical marijuana in the state of Kansas and
decriminalize possession of up to six ounces and home growing of up to
12 plants.

By current Kansas law, possession of marijuana can result in up to a
year in prison. Growing marijuana can lead to 17 years of jail time. A
bill proposing a similar solution died in committee last year.

"It's very prevalent amongst the leadership in Kansas that they think
there's no interest in medical marijuana in Kansas," Finney said.

Once introduced, the Speaker of the House will assign a committee to
review the bill. The committee would then open the bill to the
chairperson, who can then decide whether to grant the bill a hearing
for a vote or to let the bill die.

Rep. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka), the ranking democratic member of the
Public Health and Welfare committee reviewing the bill, doesn't expect
the medical marijuana bill to live.

"We have a very conservative legislature and this is the sort of issue
that most would balk at," Kelly said. "In some ways, I think it's
reflective of our citizenry. My gut instinct tells me that Kansans
aren't ready for this yet. This will have to occur in a number of
other states and Kansans will watch it play out and then sometime down
the line they might be willing to consider it - but not now."

A national public opinion poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in
December 2012 found that 58 percent of 1,325 registered voters believe
marijuana should be legalized. That statistic, however, does not
necessarily reflect the state of Kansas.

"In the state of Kansas, you have a few people that are in leadership
positions or are chairpersons of committees and they have the power to
say yea or nay about any bill that they want," Finney said. "That's
one of the things that a lot of citizens in the state of Kansas do not
know and do not realize. A lot of these deals and things that happen
here in the capitol are made by very few people."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states
and Washington, D.C. have approved the use of medical marijuana. Some
have done so through initiatives or referendum, which allow citizens
to directly vote on a popular ballot rather than rely on the state's
legislative body.

"They've been able to override and veto their legislature because they
took it into their own hands to put it up to a vote on a ballot by the
people," Finney said. "Kansas doesn't have initiative or referendum
that would allow people to put issues on a statewide ballot."

The Sunflower state does not allow initiatives and referendum by the
public but only legislation-referred constitutional amendments. To
legalize medical marijuana in the state of Kansas, either the Kansas
House and Senate would have to vote on and approve the Cannabis
Compassion and Care Act or the Kansas legislature would have to refer
the act as a referendum for a vote by the public. Still, Rep. Finney
and like-minded lawmakers haven't given up hope. She believes that if
and when states surrounding Kansas have legalized medical marijuana,
the Kansas legislature will follow suit to keep additional tax revenue
within the state.

"I do think it's just a matter of time, but Kansas has a history of
coming in last," Finney said.

Kansas was the last state to end Prohibition, partially re-legalizing
alcohol in 1948 and not allowing on-premises sale of alcohol until
1987. To this day, Kansas has complicated alcohol laws and forbids the
sale of alcohol heavier than 3.2 percent in grocery stores.

It's significant that both Colorado and Washington, where recreational
use of marijuana has been legalized on a state level, first legalized
medicinal marijuana, said political science professor Michael Lynch.

"If I was a conservative who was not excited about recreational
marijuana being legalized, I would just stop it now by preventing a
law that seems to be - at least for other states - the first step in
that direction," Lynch said. "Because it has to be led by the state
legislature, it is institutionally more difficult to do in Kansas,
even if there were as much support for it here as there is in other

The Cannabis Compassion and Care Act would regulate marijuana
exclusively for medical use. Medical marijuana, Rep. Finney believes,
is a civil rights issue. The possession and distribution of marijuana
for recreational use would remain a criminal act.

"This bill is not for recreational purposes. This bill is to help
chronically and terminally ill patients," Finney said. "When you're at
the end of life and suffering from a lot of debilitating pain, medical
marijuana gives them the opportunity to hold food down, to eat and to
still be conscious when you're in pain and taking hardcore drugs like

Emily is a freshman majoring in English and studying Sociology and
Journalism from from Kansas City, Kan. 
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