The Road to Marijuana Legalization in Kansas
The Kansas legislature has seen some setbacks and some progress in marijuana policy reform. In 2021, the House passed a medical cannabis bill. But the bill did not advance in the Senate before the end of the two-year legislative session.
Lawmakers pinned the holdup on Senate President Ty Masterson, who has been opposed to legalizing marijuana sales. He is a big-spending conservative who wants to keep taxes low.
As marijuana legalization advocates try to push for a change in Kansas law, they are facing many challenges. Several bills have been introduced, but they are unlikely to become law this year. Some have even been withdrawn. Others have been stalled in committees. The legislation is likely to be a political hot potato, and lawmakers may not want to risk getting caught in the middle of the controversy.
While a few members of the Kansas House have pushed for legalizing marijuana, Senate leaders are skeptical of the proposal. Senate President Ty Masterson has said that the issue is not a priority. He also warned that the state could face federal sanctions if it legalized marijuana.
Under current state laws, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. However, the penalties for cultivation of five or more plants and sales within 1,000 feet of a school are much higher.
Across the nation, states collect excise taxes on illegal drugs in a variety of ways. For example, some impose a percentage of the sale price while others use a weight-based system. Typically, these taxes are paid by “dealers” who are required to purchase and affix state-issued stamps to the contraband they are selling. If they fail to do so, they may be subject to fines and/or criminal sanctions.
Despite this, local marijuana taxes have passed with wide support in dozens of cities. The taxes will add up to a significant sum of money for many city governments, especially those that have lost tax revenue from the declining alcohol industry.
Almost all of the local cannabis taxes approved this week were on top of a 6% state sales tax already in place for recreational marijuana. However, the question of whether localities can impose separate sales taxes will be determined by the courts. Until then, recreational marijuana in Kansas will remain expensive.
Currently, cannabis is illegal in Kansas. It is prohibited to possess, grow, distribute or sell the drug. People found in possession of marijuana may face criminal charges. However, first-time offenders are usually given probation and the conviction does not appear on their record.
In order to convict a person of driving under the influence of cannabis, the state must prove that cannabis use impaired the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. This can be done using blood test results, expert testimony and circumstantial evidence such as slurred speech or unsteady eye movements.
Legislation to decriminalize cannabis was introduced in the 2021-2022 legislative sessions, but failed to progress beyond the House of Representatives. Despite the efforts of Democratic Rep. Vic Miller, the bill has little chance of passing in the Senate. Until then, cannabis users in the state will continue to purchase their supplies on the black market. This puts them at risk of being targeted by law enforcement and buying products that are unregulated.
Despite the fact that marijuana is legal for recreational use in other states, it remains illegal to possess or grow in Kansas. It is a Schedule I substance under state law, which prohibits the cultivation and possession of cannabis. Currently, a first-time offense of marijuana possession is a misdemeanor offense and can result in up to six months of jail time. A second offense is considered a felony and could lead to imprisonment of up to 42 months.
Lawmakers have introduced a number of marijuana reform bills during the 2023 legislative session, but none have passed committee. One bill, HB 2363, would release people who are convicted of crimes involving marijuana from their sentences and allow them to expunge their records. It would also set up rules for the cultivation and sales of marijuana for adult use. The bill has been referred to two different House committees, and its hearing has been adjourned until January 2024.