A Kansas House-approved bill legalizing medical marijuana seemingly got blown to Oz in a tornado this week. GOP Senate leadership moved the legislation out of committee and into a different panel. That’s where it may sit in legislative limbo. The move reportedly even blindsided other state GOP leaders.
This sketchiness resulted in cancellation of medical marijuana hearings scheduled to be held this week.
Advocates are concerned about the decision by Senate President Ty Masterson, reports Marijuana Moment. Republican Masterson withdrew the bill from the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee just before hearings were to be held. The hearings would have been on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It was then oddly enough, re-referred to the Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee. Masterson himself chairs that panel. The bill’s fate is now unclear.
Reform Could Be Enacted Through Legislature Or At The Ballot
This doesn’t necessarily mean that medical marijuana legalization is off the table for Kansas in 2022, according to Marijuana Moment. That could mean either in the Legislature or at the ballot. The latter is the avenue top Democratic lawmakers in the state are pursuing.
“We certainly hope that this action is just making sure that this bill meets any concerns that Senate leadership may have concerning this historic legislation,” said Kevin Caldwell, legislative manager at Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “This bill had widespread bipartisan support in the House last session. We hope Senate President Masterson quickly holds a committee hearing and advances this legislation.”
House members last year amended an unrelated bill that previously cleared the Senate to make it the chamber’s vehicle for the policy change. Because of that, the bill is “materially changed”. It was sent to the Senate for committee consideration.
GOP Leader: Medical Marijuana Not Important To Us
Now we don’t know whether lawmakers will introduce another separate bill and try to move it through both chambers, requiring another House vote. The Senate president seemed to lower expectations in recent remarks. Masterson claimed to The Kansas City Star that “not a single member” of his GOP caucus said the issue “was important to them.”
The move means that the Legislature will likely return to square one, reports The Kansas City Star. That means drafting a new bill that will need to clear the Senate and, once again, gain approval in the House. It likely pushes final action on the policy to late in the Legislative session. That’s when political maneuvering is more common.
In an unprecedented — and perhaps related — move, Masterson has banned journalists from the floor of the Kansas Senate, reports The Pitch.
But that’s not at all how Kansas Democrats roll. House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst said they’ll introduce proposals to let voters decide on medical and adult-use marijuana. Sawyer said he was “hopeful” that the Legislature might separately advance the House-passed legalization measure.
Kansas Is One Of 13 States Left Without Medical Cannabis
“The people of Kansas deserve to know if senators support the overwhelming majority of people who want to alleviate patients’ suffering with a medical cannabis program,” MPP’s Caldwell said. “Now is the time to show compassion to their fellow citizens and vote this bill out of committee.”
“Kansas is one of 13 states left without a medical cannabis program,” Caldwell said.
“We have faith that the Kansas Senate will pass this legislation this session and this is just another step in that process.”
GOP: There Are Many More Pressing Topics On The Agenda
“Medical marijuana legislation is not a priority of Senate leadership,” said Michael Pirner, GOP Leader Masterson’s communications director. But Pirner claimed the issue “may” be considered before year’s end.
But Pirner seemed to want to make it very clear that medical marijuana is nothing resembling a priority for the Kansas GOP. “There are many more pressing topics on the Senate agenda,” he said.
The bill as drafted contains several significant restrictions, including a ban on smokeable cannabis.
Members of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee did get a briefing on the issue at a meeting last week. That was ahead of the then-expected, now-cancelled formal hearings before the panel.