High Hopes for Kansas Marijuana Law Reform

17 Mar, 2015

Maybe your given image size is not enough.

The slow burn of marijuana reform is beginning to pick up speed throughout the country.  As the nation prepares to turn the page on outdated marijuana prohibition laws of the last several decades, Kansas is considering whether to follow suit.  However, the fight to pass reform is shaping up to be an uphill battle.

A National Trend

The stigma of marijuana, while still prevalent, is not nearly as pervasive as it was when the Controlled Substances Act was passed in the 1970s. To date, the District of Columbia and 23 states have legalized marijuana in one form or another.  Four states – Alaska, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon – have legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use.  D.C. is in the process of legislating similar allowances.  The remaining states that have relaxed laws on marijuana have legalized medical marijuana in various forms.  Additionally, there are 13 states with proposed legislation affecting the legality of marijuana in the medical field across the nation.

Suffice it to say, the way that our nation views marijuana is undergoing a drastic change.  Sometime this year, citizens of the Sunflower State are likely to find out if Kansas will join the ranks of those states adopting reform.

What is Kansas Take on Marijuana Right Now?

Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal in Kansas.  Under Kansas law, the first offense of possession of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of one year, and/or a maximum fine of $2,500.  Any other subsequent offense would be bumped up to a felony, with a maximum fine of $100,000, and a mandatory prison sentence that ranges anywhere from 10 months (the lowest amount) to 3.5 years.

There are a number of laws regulating the use of marijuana, each with different penalties depending on the severity of the crime.

Marijuana is also currently prohibited as a medicinal treatment.  As a Schedule 1 Substance, marijuana is viewed as highly addictive with no apparent medical value.

Proposed Changes

The bill authorizing hemp treatments for seizure disorders seeks to address the use of marijuana in the medical field, specifically for the treatment of seizures with cannabis oil.

The bill proposes to allow cannabis oil containing cannabis that is not more than 3% tetrahydrocannabinol (the active ingredient in marijuana) by weight as a treatment for seizures.  Registration would be required, and the oil would only be legal for the treatment of a qualifying medical disorder.  As defined by the bill, a qualifying medical disorder is “a condition causing seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy”.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Appropriations for review.

Another bill proposed by Representative John Rubin would lower the current sentencing requirements, allowing for more leeway for first time offenders.  The proposed legislation is currently on hold until a ballot poll initiative gauging the opinions of voters is conducted.

Looking Forward

If either bill were passed, the potential impact would be more substantial than it might appear at first glance.  While access to the oil will positively affect many lives, and the sentencing bill would have a direct impact on the way we handle first-time offenders, the true significance is where these laws might lead.  Fewer prosecutions and less jail-time means less crowding in Kansas prisons.  An appreciation of the medical benefits possibly leads to lower penalties that states across nations are implementing, and exploration into more substantial and innovative applications.

Sarah Swain appreciates the importance of staying abreast of pending legislation.  For years, our clients have relied on us to understand and interpret the ever-shifting landscape of the law, and we take this responsibility seriously.  If you have questions or concerns regarding pending or current litigation, consider speaking with someone on our team today.

Photo Credit: Atomoazul/shutterstock.com