TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — As Kansas lawmakers consider whether to legalize medical marijuana, hundreds of Kansans are crossing the state line to take advantage of legal weed in Missouri.
During a hearing for a medical marijuana bill on Wednesday, Debbi Beavers, director of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control division, said that more than 400 Kansans hold medical cards in Missouri.
“I reached out to the Missouri Division of Cannabis Regulation, and I was surprised to find out, when they voted for adult-use cannabis, that beginning Dec. 8, they were able to accept applications for medical cards for non-residents. According to their records, 458 Kansans now hold a Missouri medical card. That’s since Dec. 8,” Beavers said.
Beavers provided neutral testimony during a hearing in the state’s Senate Federal and State Affairs committee.
Lawmakers are taking up Senate Bill 135, which would create the medical cannabis regulation act. However, with just weeks left in the session, some marijuana advocates are concerned about where the bill stands.
“Just because you may not like this particular topic does not mean that we should tuck it in the corner of a committee room,” said Tuck Duncan, a representative for the Kansas Cannabis Industry Association.
The Kansas House has passed medical marijuana legislation in the past. Advocates are hoping the bill is put up for debate in the Senate this year. This time around, lawmakers held several meetings ahead of the session to craft this year’s bill.
However, Republican committee chair Sen. Mike Thompson, R-Shawnee, said there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“In every state where they have medical marijuana, they also have black market marijuana issues,” Thompson said in an interview with Kansas Capitol Bureau on Wednesday. “That’s just unavoidable because you increase the cost to marijuana through taxing. It makes it easier for the black market to exist. I think we have to learn from the mistakes of other states before we go down that path. We’re trying to make state policy…what’s going to be good state policy? What kind of problems can we anticipate? So, I think there’s an awful lot to look at.”
Thompson could not confirm a timeline on when or whether the bill would move forward this year.
Some marijuana advocates are hoping that legalization in Missouri will motivate lawmakers to get legislation passed in Kansas.
Democratic Sen. Cindy Holscher from Overland Park said the state is losing money by not taking action.
“We’re essentially losing more revenue next door to another state, where we could have a program set up here,” Holscher said.
The state’s Senate Federal and State Affairs committee heard proponents and neutral testimony on Wednesday. The committee is set to hear from opponents on the morning of Thursday, March 16.