Kansas House panel passes more restrictive medical marijuana plan

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TOPEKA — A medical marijuana proposal is headed back to the House floor for debate after a panel of legislators on Tuesday kicked out an amended and slightly more restrictive version of the measure.

The legislation creates the framework for legalized cannabis for people with qualifying conditions, including chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. To make the bill more palatable to the full chamber, members of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee made multiple amendments.

The most significant and wide-ranging change came from Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby, after discussion with Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha, who previously championed an amendment loosening restrictions on the patient-physician relationship, qualifying conditions and THC limits.

The Carpenter amendment would protect the gun rights of those with a medical marijuana license, remove protections against housing and employment discrimination and require a six-month relationship between a patient and physician — with some exceptions.

“If you are a veteran and you get your care from the VA and you’ve never seen a physician regarding your condition, you can go to a physician, and your six-month wait is waived,” Carpenter said. “So if that individual has PTSD or what have you, they could get help immediately.”

The committee adopted Carpenter’s amendment in addition to a few other changes before advancing the bill by a 12 to 8 vote.

This is the second time in just over a month the panel has approved a plan to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. After the panel passed the act in late March, the measure was referred back to the committee for further consideration.

Kansas is one of three states yet to have legalized marijuana in some form, and three bordering states allow at least medical marijuana. Development of a medical marijuana program in Kansas has moved at a slow pace for years, but amid a growing black market, there appears to be bipartisan interest in the development of such a bill.

Other changes to the bill proposed by Carpenter include grandfathering in dispensaries established before a county opts out of allowing these businesses in the area, clarifications on advertising and adding back a previously removed provision regarding negligence when leaving cannabis products around minors.

It also considers the possibility that marijuana may be rescheduled at the federal level by enacting a provision that would change any references to “recommendation” to “prescription” should that occur.

An amendment proposed by the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverage Control office would add several definitions rather than have regulators determine them at a later date. It also moves the deadline to adopt regulations back by a year to July 1, 2023.

The committee chose to reject an amendment brought by Rep. Steven Howe, R-Salina, that would have required dispensaries to be operated by a licensed pharmacy and that the pharmacist be licensed through the board of pharmacy. He also proposed requiring the board to establish requirements for the pharmacy to register as a dispensary and report transactions to the prescription monitoring database.

“Given the fact we are legislating a medicine for medical purposes, I do think it would be wise to treat it as such,” Howe said. “It would be the easiest transition to approve medical marijuana … to ensure the safety and integrity of the medical field.”

In voting to reject the amendment, Rep. John Eplee, a Republican physician from Atchison, said this could open the door to litigation issues for pharmacies as it is still against federal policy. The board of pharmacy is monitored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

With a little under a week likely remaining in the legislative session, the fate of the bill remains uncertain. Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican and chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, said if the plan passes the House and were to get consideration by the Senate, it likely would return in different form.

“If we should at some point in time run this on the floor, there will be a number of amendments. Some will get attached, some will not,” Barker said. “When it comes back from the Senate, many of us will not be able to even recognize the original bill.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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