Views from Kansas: Pass medical marijuana law

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

Kansas is set to begin an important discussion about the use of marijuana for pain relief and other medical issues.

Four House members have introduced the “Veterans First Medical Cannabis Act,” which would establish a plan for making medical marijuana available in the state. If passed, the measure would make Kansas the 34th state to authorize use of cannabis for health reasons.

The bill was also introduced in the Kansas Senate.

The efforts to make medical marijuana available in Kansas deserve support. Last November, we endorsed a medical marijuana ballot proposal in Missouri.

Kansas needs to develop its own medical cannabis program, and the new legislation is a welcome starting place for the conversation.

It isn’t clear that this particular bill is the answer, though, at least in its current form.

Among other things, the measure restricts the issuance of required medical marijuana cards to military veterans or active military personnel for the first 60 days after it becomes law.

“Because wounded warriors were put on the front line, this bill puts our veterans at the front of the line,” Kansas state Sen. Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, said last week.

All Kansans are deeply appreciative of the sacrifices of veterans and their families. But restricting marijuana access to veterans, even for a short time, implies pot is a gift for the state to bestow, not a medicine for everyone who needs it.

Giving veterans a tax break on marijuana might be a better way to accomplish the same objective.

Missouri’s new law will allow patients to grow a small amount of medical marijuana at home. The Kansas bill, on the other hand, would establish a complicated scheme of licensed growers and dispensaries, with a fairly expensive tax structure to boot.

The primary purpose of a medical marijuana law should not be raising new money for the state. Taxes to pay for oversight of the industry should be enough.

There are some things to like in the bill. Kansas would establish a “Cannabis Regulatory Commission,” which would keep an eye on the strength and quality of marijuana offered for sale (only Kansas-grown pot would be made available).

Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the quality and efficacy of medical marijuana can vary widely. Like all medicines, someone needs to ensure that marijuana is safe and is of consistent quality.

These questions and others should be addressed by lawmakers as they study this issue. But the facts are clear: States are making this therapy available to their residents, and Kansas should do the same.

Gov. Laura Kelly has endorsed a “Kansas-style” medical marijuana law. That means lawmakers who want medical pot can likely accomplish their goal without facing a veto.

This is the year to vote on the idea. Kansans in pain are waiting for the Legislature to act.

— Originally published in The Kansas City Star


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