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Archive for Monday, January 27, 2014

Editorial: Just say no

Kansas should be in no hurry to jump on to the medical marijuana band wagon.

January 27, 2014

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Kansas lawmakers should continue to just say no to marijuana bills.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and six more have medical marijuana legislation pending. Two states — Colorado and Washington — have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

It is clear, at least on a national level, that there has been a shift in public opinion about marijuana. Colorado, in addition to being the closest to Kansas, is a high profile example.

In 2012, six years after rejecting a similar initiative, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that not only legalized the possession and use of marijuana but also required the state to establish rules for the commercial production and sale of marijuana. On Jan. 1, lines stretched around Denver street corners as residents waited for the state’s first marijuana stores to open.

Buoyed by the success in Colorado and other states, there is renewed optimism that now could be the time for marijuana in Kansas. The Kansas Silver Haired Legislature endorsed medical marijuana in October, and medical marijuana bills are expected to be filed in both the Kansas House and Senate this year.

Historically, medical marijuana bills have gone nowhere in the Kansas Legislature. Last year, similar bills never made it out of committee. It would not be surprising if the bills suffer a similar fate this year. That’s not a bad thing.

Before Kansas decides to follow Colorado’s lead down the marijuana path, it’s important for lawmakers to understand what really happened there.

Colorado voters approved medical marijuana in 2000. Many voted for the law thinking they were simply providing a method of relief to patients suffering from debilitating illnesses. Less understood was that the medical marijuana legislation also provided a legal way for individuals to start businesses to grow and sell marijuana for patients. The commercial side of the medical marijuana industry took off in 2009, after the Obama administration came into office and indicated it would take a hands-off approach to medical marijuana despite conflicts with federal law.

Colorado struggled to keep up with regulating the industry and issued a yearlong moratorium on marijuana business licenses. Only patients diagnosed by a doctor as suffering from debilitating and chronic conditions were supposed to be issued medical marijuana cards, but the number of cards issued raised serious questions about abuses in the system. By last fall, Colorado had received more than 238,000 medical marijuana patient applications and had issued more than 112,000 cards.

Colorado never fully got its arms around the industry before taking the next step and legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The financial and societal impacts of medical marijuana — in Colorado and elsewhere — still aren’t fully understood.

All of Colorado’s marijuana laws were forced onto the ballot by citizen-backed initiatives. Colorado’s legislature never asked for marijuana legalization, something Kansas legislators should keep in mind on the off chance that one of the medical marijuana bills makes it to a vote.

Given the number of states experimenting with marijuana legalization, there should be plenty of data to draw upon if and when Kansas decides to address marijuana legalization. Now is certainly not that time.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 11 months ago

This editorial is correct. What needs to be done is to raise the sales taxes, property taxes, and income taxes in the state of Kansas immediately in order to pay for the incarceration of the offenders of the laws presently on the books.

There is one advantage of the laws presently on the books - people of color are grossly overrepresented in the prison population for those offenses. That keeps them off the streets.

A committee needs to be formed right away to determine how much our taxes need to be raised in order to not only incarcerate the offenders, but also to enforce the laws presently on the books.

Legalization, as was the case prior to 1937, after about 5,000 years of use for textiles, rope, and oil (which can be used as a substitute for Diesel fuel), would have a terrible side effect - the price of what is now contraband would fall precipitously. In fact, if it were not for his sails made of hemp, a type of marijuana, Christopher Columbus would never have been able to sail to the New World. We all know what a disaster that caused!

The exact same thing happened when alcohol was re-legalized. Speaking of which, the deleterious effects of alcohol are horrible, it should be banned immediately also.

Brion Eduardo 11 months ago

There has not been a rush to legalize medical cannabis in 2014. As the LJW concedes, SB9 has been introduced year after year, only to fall flat in committee. That's hardly a rush. If anything, we've been too patient for too long! I could make a long list of arguments in favor of legalization: improved public safety, affordable and effective medicine, job creation, state revenue generation, and population retention are just a few examples. What I really find disturbing is the LJW's apparent contempt for the Colorado electorate's use of the ballot-initiative process to determine their own collective destiny, a fundamental democratic ideal many of us in Kansas desperately want imported to our state. The amateurish citizen-legislators annually fail to satisfactorily address controversial issues such as K-12 funding and Medicaid. With that in mind, coupled with the fact that MMJ enjoys 70% voter support, wouldn't it make more sense for the LJW to encourage legislators to address the easy issues, such as cannabis reform, before moving on to endeavors that lawmakers -- if history is to be a guide -- can't complete satisfactorily in the regular session?

Amy Varoli Elliott 11 months ago

Legalizing for recreational use and medical use are not the same thing, there is a long list of things that can be helped with marijuana (weather smoked, eaten or taken as an oil). I know that Kansas hates science but they must stop constantly ignoring it and sticking their heads in the sand.

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