After national spotlight, Kansas groups urge lawmakers to legalize marijuana

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – After the national spotlight was put on Kansas when police ticketed a cancer patient for his use of marijuana to soothe his symptoms, groups around the state will converge on the Statehouse to urge lawmakers to legalize the plant.

The ACLU of Kansas says that from 10 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, a collective of organizations from across the Sunflower State will host a Medical Marijuana Day of Action at the Kansas Statehouse. They will call on lawmakers to quickly act to legalize medical marijuana in the 2023 session.

The ACLU indicated that Kansans will share their perspectives on how the prohibition of the drug has compromised their medical care and negatively impacted their quality of life which exacerbates suffering from chronic illnesses.

The organization noted that many who are sick in Kansas cannot legally access the medicine their medical providers have determined works best for them and Kansans who have been impacted will discuss how the government has become an obstacle in getting medical care. This includes the seriously ill such as veterans with PTSD or cancer patients who find the medicinal properties of marijuana relieve their pain and suffering without debilitating side effects.

According to the ACLU, other speakers will include Sharon Brett, Legal Director for the ACLU of Kansas, and Barry Grissom, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas. The pair will discuss how state laws restrict chances for small business owners, how criminalization has impacted those with legit medical needs and how criminalization contributes to unconstitutional outcomes.

The organization indicated that Kansas is one of three states left with no legal level for cannabis – even for medical patients. Nationally and statewide, public opinion on marijuana has shifted away from the misinformation of the War on Drugs era and further toward acceptance of its uses. A 2021 poll found that around 68% of Americans supported legalization including 83% of Democrats, 71% of Independents and 50% of Republicans.

The ACLU also noted that the state’s restriction on medical marijuana received global attention in December when Hays police entered a terminally ill Kansas man’s room after staffers reported his use of a vape pen and THC paste to ease the symptoms of the final stages of inoperable cancer. While the misdemeanor ticket was quickly dismissed, the incident reignited the discussion.

According to the organization, marijuana is also a racial justice issue – especially in Kansas. It said criminalization has disproportionately impacted Black Kansans as the state ranked 12th for the largest racial disparities in arrest rates for marijuana possession in 2018. Similarly, it said Black Kansans were 4.8 times more likely to be arrested for possession of weed than a white person in 2018.

Lastly, the group said equitable legalization, regulation and taxation of the drug could provide millions in revenue. With the encouragement of a responsible and sustainable industry, it said Kansas could raise millions in revenue for essential services like roads, schools and safeties as new opportunities are created for Kansas farmers.

The group will gather at the south wing of the first floor of the Kansas Statehouse at SW 8th and Van Buren in Topeka at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

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