On Tuesday June 26, 2018, Oklahoma became the 30th state to legalize marijuana in some form, when the state’s voters gave the nod to medical marijuana. Missouri is set to vote on the issue in November.Yet in Kansas marijuana remains illegal in all forms; several bills have come up in the state’s legislature, but nothing has become of them. Kansas is set to lose potential tax dollars as it becomes an island among states that have legalized marijuana to some degree. The only neighboring state still in complete agreement with Kansas is its neighbor to the north, Nebraska.
Missouri’s measure is on the ballot for November, but only because the state’s legislature has been indecisive. The bill passed the state’s lower chamber but died in its Senate. Under Missouri law, such a situation kicks the decision to the voters. Given the way voting has gone around the country, I am pretty confident that medical marijuana will be legal in Missouri very soon.
To the west of Kansas is Colorado, which, as most Americans already are aware, was one of the first states to legalize the drug for recreational use. Oklahoma, to the south of Kansas, has just now voted to legalize the drug, and Missouri to the east is set to do the same.
One candidate for Governor of Kansas issued a statement to my desk at the Baldwin Gazette regarding the Oklahoma vote for medicinal use of the drug. No, it was not the Libertarian candidate, even though the Libertarians have been pushing for legalization for years. It was the former mayor of Wichita and current Democratic candidate for Governor, Carl Brewer. Brewer’s statement said,
Yesterday voters in Oklahoma said yes to legalizing marijuana. Kansas needs to be next. Carl [Brewer] is the only leading candidate for governor who has come out in full support to legalize marijuana, both for medicinal and recreational use. Currently 30 states have legalized it for medicinal use, 9 states and the District of Columbia allow it for recreation use, and now Canada has voted to make marijuana legal across its entire country.
Let’s not let Kansas be the last to take advantage of this opportunity to provide the medical care so many people in need and the revenue that our entire state needs. Let’s legalize marijuana, tax it, and fund vital services such as public education and health care.
While I did not hear from any of the other candidates, I did ask about it when I interviewed Republican candidate Jim Barnett for a story that I will be publishing in July, with profiles of all the Republican and Democratic candidates for Governor of Kansas. In that interview, Barnett said,
First of all, I am going to talk just a little bit about hemp. You know I really support agricultural hemp and it’s probably our state’s answer to stepping into this answer. Which, is a challenging answer.
Agriculture hemp brings new agriculture products, uses less water, and has economic opportunity – there, going back to your tax question. Next question, really, is medicinal marijuana, and I will look at any bill that comes across my desk on an evidence-based approach. I think that is probably the closest thing that this state is ready to start looking at.
Now the real question is the legalization for fully or recreational use. I think the answers are still out there because I talk to a lot of people in a lot of different walks of life, that raise positives and negatives. Tax revenues yes, but negatives on the downside there. Social issues and homelessness, etc. and traffic safety issues too, with our fatality rates being up in Kansas and the thought that some of that is coming from Colorado. So I think the evidence is still out on that, and I would like to look at that before I would answer that. Again I want to come back to the position, that I would look at any bill on an evidence-based approach.
I have to agree with Brewer and say that Kansas should, at the very least, legalize medical marijuana as its neighbors to the south (and perhaps to its east) do. We will have to see what the 2019 legislature does. Kansas is losing tax dollars that the state could be reaping if it would just get with it. The sad thing is, if history is a guide, Kansas will probably be the last state to legalize marijuana. In Prohibition, Kansas was the first state to outlaw alcohol, and the last to repeal it.