About 50 supporters of medical marijuana rallied Thursday at the Statehouse amid news that a Senate committee will have informational hearings on the issue.
Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat, and Rep. Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat, have introduced bills that would allow marijuana use to treat a range of illnesses and symptoms.
The last hearing on a medical marijuana bill in Kansas was in 2012. The briefings scheduled next week in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee are not formal bill hearings, but Finney remains encouraged.
“An informational hearing is different than a hearing, but we’re not going to turn that down,” she said. “We’re going to keep coming back every year.”
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. But nearly half the states have legalized some sort of medicinal use, and a handful, including Colorado, now allow recreational use.
Finney told those at Thursday’s rally that the Kansas budget crisis, combined with legalization in other states and mounting public pressure within Kansas, gives medical marijuana the chance to advance this year.
“I think the time is now,” she said. “I have more legislators that are becoming more receptive to it, and I also have more bipartisan support for it.”
Esau Freeman, president of Kansas for Change, said his group will be back for the hearings Wednesday and Jan. 22. He said the state is doing itself a disservice by incarcerating people for use of marijuana, which Freeman said is “safer than Tylenol.”
“It’s time for the Legislature to pass this bill,” he said.