OPINION: Is pot legalization battle coming to Kansas?

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The issue of marijuana legalization is coming up again and again in our national discourse, and has even gained enough prominence to figure into the 2016 presidential race. Both sides have seen debate questions on the subject, and one candidate is going a lot farther than that.

Bernie Sanders, progressive senator from Vermont and current second-place Democratic candidate, introduced legislation to the Senate last week called the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.

This would, as detailed by CBS, “remove marijuana from the federal list of Schedule I drugs, defined by the Drug Enforcement Agency as the ‘most dangerous’ substances that have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

States would still have the right to enforce their own bans on the drug, and there has been movement in state legislatures on this very issue. On Nov. 3, a measure for constitutional amendment was put to vote in Ohio on marijuana legalization and was rejected by the voters.

But as the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Anne Saker explained in her article “6 reasons marijuana legalization failed in Ohio” that there were big problems with the bill separate from the actual issue, not the least of which were fears of government-sponsored monopolies. Saker said even marijuana activists were strongly against the measure, and some are saying that it will come up again.

But will this debate stir up in Kansas?

We’re unique in that we get to see firsthand the biggest success story in marijuana legalization: Colorado. According to TIME, our neighbor to the west took in almost $70 million in taxes on marijuana sales. They took in so much revenue, in fact, they even had a “tax holiday” on the product one day in September.

Colorado took in so much money because they fully legalized recreational marijuana – something only four states have done – while the first debate in many states has been whether to legalize medical marijuana; this is most likely where the debate would enter the Kansas consciousness.

According to a data study by Nerd Wallet looking at the potential pot revenue of every state, Kansas could bring in a (I would argue, still conservative) estimate of $14 million.

Such an unbelievable boon in revenue would be a life preserver in the pervasive fiscal despair of our own state, but could it ever catch on socially?

The Kansas Supreme Court took a look at the issue when voters of Wichita passed a ballot measure last April which “would lessen the penalty for first-time marijuana possession to a $50 fine,” and the Kansas Health Institute just published a study exploring the issue as well.

In KCUR’s article “Kansas study looks at effects of legalizing medical Marijuana,” they quote Rep. Gail Finney (D-Wichita) on the debate.

“I don’t think that issue is going away,” Finney said. “Like I’ve said over and over again, I think it’s just a matter of time. Kansas will probably be one of the later states, but I think it’s going to happen.”

The argument for includes its vast health benefits, revenue generation, hypocrisy when compared to the acceptance of alcohol, the currently huge negative impact on criminal justice (especially youth offenders) and even the issue of personal choice. Those against it say that it is a gateway to far worse, life-destroying drugs and that it sends the wrong societal message to our youth.

While you have to pour your own thoughts in and decide for yourself, one thing is certain: marijuana legalization is becoming more and more of an issue in both our state legislatures and national politics, and will probably impact Kansas sooner than you might think.

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Jonathan Greig
Hi, I’m Jonathan. I graduate this December, majoring in Anthropology, with minors in Creative Writing and Political Science. After that … we’ll see. Maybe graduate school in environmental anthropology. Maybe I’ll finally pursue my old childhood dream of becoming an infomercial host. It’s up in the air. Some of my interests and hobbies include devout sports fanaticism, religious study, and composing country songs that serve to explain the unearthly amount of disdain I have for country music. My band’s called Catfish Hurricane, you should check us out. Well, actually, you shouldn’t. I love writing, which is how I accidentally stumbled into this job. This stumbling into good things is my plan for life in general.