More than half of the major candidates for Kansas governor support legalizing medical marijuana – a change that appears more likely after Oklahoma voters approved medicinal use on Tuesday.
Medical marijuana in Kansas is no longer the distant goal for supporters of marijuana legalization and reform that it once was. But what happens may ultimately depend on who is elected governor.
Marijuana has been a prominent issue in the Democratic race. That, as well as Oklahoma’s decision, are raising the odds that Kansas lawmakers will take a serious look at the issue next year.
“Kansas can no longer afford to be left out of the sweeping tide of states that have legalized marijuana for the health and financial benefits of its citizens. Canada has legalized it and now our Oklahoma neighbors have made medicinal marijuana legal,” said Carl Brewer, the former Wichita mayor who is seeking the Democratic nomination.
Oklahoma voters approved medical marijuana 56.8 percent to 43.2 percent, despite opposition from law enforcement and business leaders. Advocates say that if Kansas allowed voter referendums, the state would have already legalized medical marijuana, and 2017 polling by Fort Hays State University found a majority of residents support medical marijuana.
But a supportive governor would make a difference, they say.
“At least it would give us the opportunity to have a debate. That’s what we’ve been asking for for years. Let’s have a serious debate and real honest hearing on this issue,” said Rep. Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat who has offered legislation to legalize medical marijuana.
Bills to legalize medical marijuana have struggled in the Legislature, however. Neither the House nor the Senate has passed one.
A high-ranking Republican lawmaker said more study is needed before the Legislature acts.
That first means studying the evidence regarding marijuana, he said, as well as the experience of other states. He said he would support having state auditors examine the marijuana issue and report back to lawmakers.
Finney said calls for additional study are an excuse for inaction.
“If they’re really serious about it, we can at least have a conversation and a debate about it,” Finney said.
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