Medical marijuana recently suffered a setback in Kansas when House Bill 2017 died in committee last June. The bill would have allowed patients to possess, purchase, and even cultivate at least four ounces of marijuana from licensed dispensaries.
It is somewhat surprising that a bill as progressive as HB 2017 would be filed in a state that legalized CBD only fairly recently. Unlike most other medical marijuana laws, HB 2017 does not list any specific conditions patients would need to gain legal access. Instead, they can simply get a recommendation for marijuana if have a temporary or permanent disability or illness that limits their ability to conduct one or more major life activities or may cause serious harm to their safety or physical or mental health. Moreover, it allowed patients and their caregivers to cultivate marijuana at home.
The bill also imposed a 4 percent tax on marijuana sales. Revenue would be used to expand broadband access, fund the Department of Aging and Disabilities Services and the state’s water supply. HB 2017 also had employment, housing and education protections for registered patients and outlined penalties for licensing violations and impaired driving.
While HB 2017 may not have gotten the support it needed in the state’s Republican-led legislature, its Democratic sponsors and other marijuana advocates feel optimistic and are planning to take the issue back up next year.
The setback is likely to be a short-lived one. Recent polls have revealed that around 63 percent of Kansas residents are in favor of legalization, so all that needs to be done is for lawmakers to send a marijuana bill for Gov. Laura Kelly to sign. Kelly, a Democrat, made it clear that she is in favor of medical marijuana, and may even sign a bill legalizing recreational use.
Overview of Kansas Marijuana Laws
At present, only CBD is legal in Kansas under SB 282. Cannabis, whether for medical or recreational use, remain illegal.
- Possession – Under HB 2462, marijuana possession for personal use is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1000. Second offenses are considered Class A misdemeanors punishable by up to 1-year imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $2500. Third and subsequent offenses go up to Level 5 felonies punishable by up to 42 months in prison, and a maximum fine of up to $100,000.
- Sale – Selling or distribution of marijuana automatically get charged as felonies in Kansas. There is also a rebuttable presumption of intent to distribute if the offender possesses 450 grams or more. If the offense happens within 1,000 feet of a school zone, the penalty will increase a drug severity level.
- Less than 25 grams – Level 4 felony punishable by 14 months probation to 51 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $300,000.
- Distribution of 25 to less than 450 grams – Level 3 felony punishable by 46 to 83 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $300,000.
- 450 to less than 30 kilograms – Level 2 felony punishable by 92 – 144 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $500,000.
- 30 kilograms or more – Level 1 felony punishable by 138 to 204 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $500,000.
- Cultivation – Growing marijuana is an offense that automatically gets a felony charge.
- More than 4 but less than 50 plants – Level 3 felony
- 50 to less than 100 plants – Level 2 felony
- 100 plants or more – Level 1 felony
History of Marijuana in Kansas
Since banning weed in 1927, Kansas marijuana laws have remained stagnant until around late 2000. As many as 14 bills seeking the legalization of medical marijuana were introduced since then but none could find enough traction and were eventually quashed by the opposition. Nevertheless, advocates such as Sen. David Haley kept hammering on, introducing bill after bill, despite repeated failures. Since 2013, the Democratic senator introduced 3 bills pushing for a medical marijuana program: SB 9, SB 155 in 2017 and SB 113 in 2019.
Perhaps due to the pressure introduced by the legalization of weed in other states, issues concerning marijuana legalization came to a head around 2015 to 2017. Medical marijuana bills HB 2348 and SB 187 were introduced almost simultaneously, and although both had died in committee, marijuana reform was making small wins on another front. In 2015, the city of Wichita voted in favor of decriminalizing simple possession, reducing penalties from a misdemeanor down to an infraction carrying a $50 fine. Although the Kansas Attorney General sued the city for passing the measure, the City Council eventually voted to approve a similar ordinance in 2017. Likewise, a few Kansas sheriffs and two other states sued Colorado over its marijuana laws which allegedly burdened law enforcement in neighboring states. The lawsuit proved to be unsuccessful.
Advocates scored a significant victory in 2016 when the legislature enacted HB 2462 that reduced penalties for first-time possession from one year to six months in jail. The bill also slashed the penalty for second offenses from a felony down to a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year. A year later, SB 112 reduced the maximum penalty for possession of paraphernalia used in growing five or fewer plants to six months imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine. However, the charge for growing marijuana remained unchanged.
Momentum in favor of medical cannabis continued to trickle in during the last few years, hinting that legalization may not remain a pipe dream for Kansans. In 2018, Gov. Jeff Colyer signed SB 282 which exempted CBD from the definition of marijuana, effectively making it legal. The following year, Gov. Laura Kelly signed SB 28. Also known as Claire and Lola’s Law, the bill gave patients an affirmative defense for the possession of CBD that contains THC.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Kansas
How do Kansas marijuana laws compare with those in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about marijuana legalization in Kansas
No, adult-use marijuana is still illegal in Kansas.
None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not allowed in Kansas.
No, cannabis for medical use is still illegal in Kansas. Only CBD is allowed at present.
None. Home cultivation of medical cannabis is not allowed in Kansas.
The most recent effort to legalize medical cannabis, HB 2017, failed to advance. Marijuana advocates are now looking to refile this coming 2021.
Residents are not allowed to cultivate marijuana, whether recreational or medical, at home in Kansas.
Marijuana is completely illegal in Kansas and nobody is allowed to cultivate it.
Although Kansas may not have a full-fledged medical marijuana program as of yet, the future of legalization in the Sunflower State looks brighter compared to Iowa or Indiana. Majority of Kansans are already open to legalization and lawmakers are working hard for years to push legislation. At this rate, Gov. Kelly may get to sign a medical marijuana law in the last two years of her term and if the leadership does not change hands, it’s likely that the state may even see recreational use within the next 5 years.