Kansas legislators reviewing marijuana penalties


On the agenda for 2016, Kansas legislatures are reviewing a bill passed by the House of Representatives last year regarding marijuana laws. House Bill 2049 involves lessening the penalties for first and second-time possession charges of marijuana, and includes creating a program to research industrial hemp and authorizing hemp treatments for seizure disorders.

The Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee met in a hearing on Jan. 26 to make their own amendments to the bill.

“The bill in committee changed,” Sen. Molly Baumgardner, member of the Correction and Juvenile Justice Committee, said. “The portion (of the bill) that has to do with hemp oil and usage of that, has been taken out because it is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Section 1-11 has to do with prescription of medicinal marijuana to a patient research on industrial hemp oil was taken out because there is better version that has been introduced in (the) House of Represenatives.”

Sen. Jeff King, on the Correction and Juvenile Justice Committee, said the committee put the sections describing the hemp oil and research for treatment in a separate bill.

“We felt they combined two different subjects in House Bill 2049,” King said. “So we took apart the two different sections and now the health committee will handle it from there.”

Hemp oil is derived from cannabis, the same plant that produces marijuana, but the oil used for medicinal treatment is not intoxicating because it contains only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.

“This part of the bill was concerning because the FDA has rigorous tests they put any product through before they are allowed to use it,” King said. “I would be concerned about any legislation that doesn’t not pass FDA approval.”

Baumgardner said the committee listened to parents testify that they take their children to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri to use the hemp oil.

“I contacted the hospital and they responded saying if the hemp oil is human tested, met by standards from the FDA and is legally prescribed, then they will use it,” Baumgardner said.

King said he has the deepest sympathies toward families and kids with seizure disorders.

“If my son or daughter a had seizure disorder, I would want to try everything possible for treatment,” King said.

Savanah Thorne, sophomore in family studies, said she believes if people are only using marijuana or hemp oil for medicinal purposes, it should be allowed.

“As long as it has been fully tested and there is some way to regulate the correct use, it should be okay if it helps you live a healthier life,” said Thorne.

According to the Lawrence Journal-World, the bill states first-time possession is a class A misdemeanor, and second-time possession is a Level 5 nonperson felony. Bill revisions would, “… reclassify those crimes to class B and class A misdemeanors respectively.”

“I feel like being charged with possession of marijuana opens the door to being charged with more substantial bad crimes,” Thorne said. “If we have a hefty punishment from the beginning, it may do more to prevent more crimes.”

The measure would decrease the maximum penalties for first-time marijuana possession to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine from a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. A second possession conviction would no longer be a felony, according to the bill.

“We heard in testimony last week roughly 90 percent of people incarcerated for marijuana possession have no additional charges,” Baumgardner said. “Based on evidence we were presented from law enforcement officers, the criminal justice and family members, the punishment did not fit the crime.”

King said his hope is that we can get the best use out of our prison space and put those who are the greatest threat to Kansans in there instead.

“That is why we also added an increased punishment for burglary as part of that bill,” King said. “I am concerned with freeing up prison space for the most dangerous criminals.”