Every year since 2009, Sen. David Haley of Kansas City and Rep. Gail Finey of Wichita have introduced medical marijuana bills, but none have had any success going beyond informational hearings, where no real action can take place.
In 2016 Hayley thinks this could change, with news there will be public hearings held on his proposed medical marijuana bills.
“I think the ice is beginning to thaw regarding the reasonableness of the issue among the leadership of the Legislature.”
The chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, Rep. Dan Hawkins, has said he will wait for more information before giving his comments on SB9 and HB2011.
“Nobody’s come and really pushed it.” Dawkins said, adding he has not heard much from his constituents on the subject either. He continued, “I’ve got a lot of other things on my radar screen that are a lot more important.”
The goal of both measures, SB9 and HB2011, would be to create compassion centers (dispensaries) where qualifying patients with proper identification and program registration could obtain marijuana legally.
Informational hearings are scheduled for January 21 & 22 in the Senate’s Public Health and Welfare Committee to hear comments from supporters and opponents of the proposed bills.
Rep. Finey reported that most of the Republicans on the House Health and Human Services Committee claimed that they had other commitments and exited before testimony began at the first informational hearing for medical marijuana in 2010.
During the next attempt in 2012, the republican committee chair “walked in with security guards with the perception there would be a bunch of druggies.” Said Finey,
“To assume that it’s only for the shoddiest people and strictly for a recreational front, that’s absolutely ludicrous.”
On Thursday approximately 50 people attended a medical marijuana rally at the Statehouse, sponsored by Haley, Finney, Kansas for Change, and others.
Photo Credit: KSHB, Kansas.com
Organizers of a Wichita petition to reduce penalties for marijuana possession announced they have collected more than enough required signatures to put an initiative on the city election ballot on April 7, 2015.
The push for change is being lead by Esau Freeman, president of the pro-marijuana group Kansas for Change. Freeman said they are planning to submit the signatures to election officials on January 7. It is exciting to see this effort have different results than the attempt before the November general election, which fell just short of the number of required signatures collected. Leading up to the submission of the signatures, the group will be making public presentations at a state legislative forum and City Council meeting. Both of these events will occur on January 6.
The current initiative is not exactly what the group was originally looking to place on the ballot. As a result of compromises made with City Hall, it is notably weaker than the initial bill submitted. “We’re calling it the Marijuana Reform Initiative,” Freeman said. “It’s not decriminalization and no way is it legalization.”
Freeman and co-organizer Janice Bradley, of the Peace and Social Justice Center, feel very confident that they have the signatures they need to get the initiative on the ballot this time around. The first attempt came up 36 signatures short because nearly 3,600 signatures were not accepted due to procedural errors. The most common issue being signatures belonging to non-Wichita residents and unregistered voters.
If passed, first-offense marijuana possession would be a $50 fine. This is quite an improvement from the current penalty of a misdemeanor charge, up to $2,500 fine, and a year in jail. Penalty enforcement would be issued through a citation or summons. Additionally, if the offender keeps a clean record, the conviction would be expunged after one year with no other offenses. The change in law would apply to adults 21 or older with 32 grams or less of marijuana (paraphernalia included).
Freeman continued, “If approved, it would send a message to elected officials that Kansans want more-relaxed marijuana laws.”