Amidst budget concerns in Kansas, advocates push for medical marijuana legalization

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TOPEKA, Kan. — According to the Kansas Division of Budget, the state is expecting to face a $653 million shortfall in fiscal year 2021, including a projected $1.3 billion loss in tax revenue.

Proponents of legalizing marijuana in the state say marijuana sales tax revenue could help, KSNT reports.

“With a budget that’s just absolutely destroyed in the state of Kansas, it would be something that would very much help with multiple different things,” said J. Andrew Ericson Sr., president of the Kansas Cannabis Business Association.

Ericson points to Oklahoma as a state that the KCBA is looking to emulate with medical marijuana legislation. According to the Oklahoma state government website, the state brought in more than $39 million in medical marijuana revenue so far in June 2020.

Colorado, which has legal medicinal and recreational marijuana, brought in more than $300 million in revenue in 2019.

The KCBA estimates that Kansas could bring in approximately $200 million in revenue over 5 years.

“That’s based on statistics from different states that have similar bills to the one that we’re trying to push forward,” Ericson explained.

States that border Kansas, like Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri have legalized marijuana to varying degrees. Kansas is one of only a handful of state to not legalize medical marijuana.

But opponents say legalization comes at a heavy cost.

“Increased driving accidents…increased adolescent addiction, increased opiate use, increased opiate overdoses,” listed Dr. Eric Voth, Addiction and Pain Medicine specialist. “So there’s a lot that follows along and so then you get into the social costs.”

Voth said there are THC and CBD medications available, with a prescription, to treat pain that have been FDA approved. Marijuana has not been approved by the FDA. Voth said there is little regulation when it comes to medical marijuana.

“It’s not like when you go into a pharmacy and you say, ‘I want ‘X’ milligrams of this drug,'” Voth said.

While marijuana has proven to be a decisive issue in Kansas, medical marijuana legislation did have bipartisan support in the legislature.

Gov. Laura Kelly said, at the beginning of the legislative session in January, that she would support a bill to legalize medical marijuana. No bill made it to her desk this year.

Advocates encourage Kansans to research medical marijuana and reach out to their state representatives if they support legalization.

“One of the most important things is for people to really make sure they’re educated on the subject. Misinformation is a big component of some of the pushback,” said Erin Montroy, CEO of the Kansas Cannabis Business Association.

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