Kansas lawmakers speak out on Kelly’s plan to legalize medical marijuana, expand Medicaid

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas lawmakers are speaking out about Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to legalize medical marijuana. 

Kelly has a plan to pay for Medicaid expansion. She wants to legalize and tax medical marijuana to fund Kancare, the program that would offer low-cost healthcare to 165,000 Kansans in need. 

Democratic State Sen. David Haley has introduced medical marijuana legislation for at least a decade, he said.

“Marrying the two issues may help a very conservative, in fact, progressive legislature finally join the other 47 states that do have some form of medical marijuana in place,” Haley said. “I realize and recognize that it’s going to take conservative Republican leadership to follow suit to take a real leadership role in addressing something that we’re committed to.” 

Kansas is one of three states that has not legalized any form of cannabis program.

Outside of Kelly’s plan, there are bills in the Kansas Senate and House that would legalize medical marijuana.

But Republican State Sen. Molly Baumgardner said she doesn’t support the state getting into the drug business at the advice of law enforcement, medical professionals and some businesses. 

“So business and industry rely on people to be able to test clean of marijuana and what we’ve learned from neighboring states, particularly Colorado, is that’s a very tremendous problem for business and industry to have folks that are drug free to be hired,” Baumgardner said. “I’ve received one phone call since this first kind of surfaced, one phone call in supportive. All the other phone calls have been in opposition.” 

Republican Rep. John Eplee said he’s been hearing from constituents who support medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion, but he said the devil is in the details. 

“Putting two huge subjects together in the same bill, which I think is pretty problematic for a lot of legislators, myself included. I mean, both of those issues should probably stand on their own merits and separate bills,” Eplee said.

“But many [constituents] have reached out to me and think that it’s past time that we had some form of medical marijuana for possession for some residents in in the state, and I think we need to try to honor that.” 

In Missouri, medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion were both approved by ballot measure, meaning voters chose the fate of the issues. Kansas constitution does not allow for referendums, which means the Kansas Legislature would have to take action to move on both. 

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