Marijuana law unlikely to pass in Kansas

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington this year, other states around the country are showing signs of doing the same. But despite a growing contingent of support in Kansas, the state seems unlikely to make the drug legal.

Twenty states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, and eight states currently have pending legislation to do the same, but any efforts to do so in the Sunflower State have failed to gain traction. State Senator David Haley (D-Kansas City) planned to reintroduce The Cannabis Compassion and Care Act, a bill that would allow the use of medicinal marijuana, during this legislative session, but the bill has yet to see the Senate floor and is probably unlikely to any time soon.

Despite little political backing in the state legislature, support among the state’s population to legalize does seem to be growing, though. Advocacy groups such as Kansas For Change are gaining traction with their lobbying efforts in the state legislature, and a recent poll conducted by KWCH-TV in Wichita found that 70 percent of Kansans were in favor of legalizing medical marijuana use. Nonetheless, Sgt. Trent McKinley of the Lawrence Police Department said he hasn’t noticed enough support on a local level to make an impact on the law.

“I’m not aware of anything of that nature,” McKinley said. “I don’t think we’ve been asked to offer an opinion of any sort on the issue.”

McKinley added that even a large local push for legalization from a city like Lawrence would still not amount to much in the way of legislative change.

“The only way I can see us getting involved is with some sort of a push on a local level, but I don’t think that can even be done,” he said. “City ordinances can be more restrictive than state law but not less restrictive, so I think if there was any change made it would have to be on a state level.”

But even big advocates for legalization in Kansas don’t see a scenario in which the state finds itself in a position similar to Colorado.

Bart Allen runs a small business out of Salina that shuttles customers from the town to Denver to legally purchase medicinal marijuana. He primarily drives customers who are more than 50 years old and suffering from various illnesses and pain.

Allen, who lives in Salina and grew up in Overland Park, said the mindset of most people in the state doesn’t lend itself to making the drug legal.

“It’s just really backwards here,” Allen said. “I mean, one of the ladies in the newspaper has compared what I do to Al Capone. It sounds silly, but I tell everyone there’s more than a tank of gas and 400 miles between Salina and Denver, it’s a whole other mindset. The difference in mindset between Salina and Denver is so big, you might as well be in Europe.”

Because of the unlikelihood of passing legalization legislation in Kansas, Allen said the state is largely ignored by national proponents and marijuana movements that see it as a potential waste of resources.

“I think Kansas, quite frankly, has been abandoned by the marijuana movement,” he said. “There’s so many other frontiers, New York and other places that are more relevant and have a lot more people. It seems to be kind of hands-off on Kansas, and I understand why. If you only have so much money, why would you spend it out here?”

Brandon Kuzara, a recent University graduate from Colorado Springs, Colo., voted against the legalization of marijuana in Colorado when it came up on the ballot in 2012. He said the prospect of legalizing an illicit substance made him uncomfortable, as the future consequences could end up more harmful than people realize.

“My biggest opposition is that legalization would seem to lead to greater accessibility to drugs,” Kuzara said. “If we keep passing laws like this, it could become easier to make more harmful drugs legal, and it opens up more opportunities for abuse of drugs. It’s a slippery slope.”

 

— Edited by Jamie Koziol

 

  • Updated Feb. 4, 2014 at 9:27 pm