Why did Kansas lawmakers tackle a medical marijuana bill? What happens next?

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — Just minutes before Thursday’s Senate Federal and State Affairs session came to a close, Sen. Alicia Straub, R-Ellinwood, made a substitute motion to introduce Senate Bill 135, which would have effectively legalized medical marijuana in Kansas.

Late. Straub said during the meeting that the complexity of the bill made it too much to tackle in one week. Several opponents of the bill, including Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter, echoed those sentiments during the meeting.

“Our associations oppose the passage of SB 135,” said Sheriff Easter.

Sheriff Easter represented three law enforcement organizations: the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association, the Kansas Association of the Chiefs of Police and the Kansas Peace Officers Association. During his testimony, Sheriff Easter said the state of Kansas cannot follow the path of neighboring states when it comes to medical marijuana.

“It is also clear that no other state going down this path has found the proper balance necessary to generate taxes to properly fund enforcement and programs, including rehabilitation services,” said Sheriff Easter.

Another concern the sheriff addressed to the committee: How legalizing medical marijuana could affect road safety.

“How much is too high?” Sheriff Easter asked the committee. “We know what the rate is for DUI: it’s over 0.08 — we don’t know what it is for marijuana.”

Both Democrats on the committee voted against moving to table SB 135. Thursday’s decision means no further discussion or action will be taken for the rest of the year unless lawmakers in that committee decide to take up the issue again.

But supporters of SB 135, like Lee Bretz of Great Bend, said Thursday’s decision only delays the inevitable.

“It will happen, you know, in a matter of time,” Bretz said. “I just don’t know why they keep delaying it.”

KSN News spoke with Bretz in December 2022 after his father (who was suffering from inoperable cancer) was ticketed by Hays Police Department officers in his hospital room for using THC-infused products. He died a few weeks later.

“It could have helped him tremendously and I wouldn’t have had to see him suffer as long as I did,” Bretz said.

As for the city of Wichita, possession of marijuana has been decriminalized as of September 2022.

In a statement to KSN News, WPD Chief Joe Sullivan says, “If and when the medical marijuana legislation passes, I will review the specific wording of the bill with my senior staff and our legal team and then make the necessary changes to our policy and education.”

Why did Kansas lawmakers tackle a medical marijuana bill? What happens next?

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