‘Recreational cannabis dispensary’ that was raided in Topeka plans to move to Lawrence; update on medical marijuana bill
There is word of a new business coming to downtown Lawrence that likely will get a high level of attention: a “recreational cannabis dispensary.”
No, recreational marijuana use — nor medical marijuana use, for that matter — hasn’t been legalized in Kansas, and this new Massachusetts Street storefront won’t be in the business of selling marijuana.
But, if history is a guide, it may still attract plenty of legal scrutiny.
Guardian MMJ Recreational Cannabis Dispensary has announced plans to open in a vacant storefront at 1025 Massachusetts St. in the coming weeks. If you are a follower of marijuana and cannabis developments in Kansas, the name may sound familiar. Last month — on April 20 or 4/20 day, in fact — Guardian’s Topeka store was raided by officers from the Topeka Police Department and the Shawnee County Drug Task Force, according to reports in the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Now, Guardian has sent an email to online followers and has a message on its business phone that it is moving to 1025 Massachusetts St. within the next three weeks. If you are trying to picture the location, that is the former home of Aimee’s Cafe and Coffeehouse.
I’ve got a message into the operators of Guardian, but haven’t yet heard back from them. A key question to them will be what they plan to sell in their Lawrence store. That may go a long way in determining whether the new Lawrence shop will have some of the same legal problems that the old Topeka location experienced.
It appears the big issue in Topeka revolved around the shop’s sales of products with the chemical component Delta-8, a form of THC, which is the component that produces the high associated with marijuana. The shop’s owners, according to a report in the Capital-Journal, contend the state has “zero authority” to regulate Delta-8 products. A legal opinion from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt contends the state does have significant authority and that any cigarettes, cigars, chew, teas or liquids or gases used for vaping that have Delta-8 as an ingredient are illegal in Kansas.
So, a big question is whether Guardian plans on selling those Delta-8 products in Lawrence. Guardian officials have asked the attorney general’s office to admit that its December legal opinion on Delta-8 was incorrect, but the attorney general’s office has done nothing to retract that opinion.
Given that, the question looms of whether law enforcement will raid the Lawrence store if it is selling such Delta-8 products. In its email message to followers, Guardian didn’t address what products it plans to sell at the Lawrence store, but predicted it would not have problems with a raid like it did in Topeka.
“Moving on, we no longer need to worry about another raid happening, and to those customers that were harassed outside the parking lot during the raid, we are so sorry and love you,” the company said in its email. “This will never happen again.”
The message didn’t provide details about why the company believes such a raid is no longer a possibility, but did note that it had been involved in a “month long battle and intense meetings with our legal team.”
While it didn’t explicitly say so in its letter, the company alluded to an attitude in Topeka about cannabis that may be different from the one that prevails in Lawrence.
“When Guardian was raided in Topeka, Kansas on April 20, 2022, we never realized how much Topeka, Kansas hates cannabis,” the memo said.
While Lawrence leaders and prosecutors have taken action in recent years to reduce fines and change prosecution policies related to simple marijuana possession in Lawrence, it is worth noting that law enforcement agencies other than the Lawrence Police Department or the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office could be responsible for enforcing any Delta-8 violations of state law. It actually was the Kansas Bureau of Investigation that asked for the legal opinion from the attorney general clarifying the legality of Delta-8.
On that front, the attorney general’s legal opinion did state that some Delta-8 products could be legal under state law. The opinion said products that are made from industrial hemp and contain no more than 0.3% of THC, the Delta-8 variety or any other variety of THC, were legal. But the opinion provided no examples of such legal products, but rather highlighted that cigarettes, cigars, chew, teas or liquids or gases used for vaping that have Delta-8 were illegal under the law.
At this point, some of you may be wondering how a store that bills itself as a recreational cannabis dispensary can be legal in Kansas since the state doesn’t allow recreational marijuana use. That gets back to the fact that all marijuana is cannabis but not all cannabis is marijuana. There are lots of stores in Lawrence that sell CBD products, for instance, that are derived from hemp — another type of cannabis — that include creams, oils and other such products without issue.
In terms of where legislation stands to make some form of marijuana use legal in Kansas, those efforts officially ended for the year on Monday. That was the last day of the Kansas Legislature’s session in Topeka. A bill to allow medical marijuana use in the state didn’t receive a final vote from the Legislature, but some lawmakers indicated that work would continue on a bill over the summer so that it could be addressed earlier during next year’s legislative session.
“There are still some pieces that just need to be tweaked on it,” Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe and chair of the Federal and State Affairs committee, told me. “The bill was not ready for prime time. We want to get this one right because it is a big piece of legislation.”
Olson said he anticipated having three days of hearings on the bill during the summer or fall before the Legislature begins its 2023 session. He said the medical marijuana bill already has a fair number of supporters in the Legislature, but extensive hearings over the break could produce more lawmaker support for the bill.