Four Years Of Confusing Cannabis Legislation In Kansas


Even the authorities didn’t know…

For the last four years, Kansas state laws regarding cannabis have been nearly impossible to define. In fact, the laws have been so elusive, law enforcement officials in Johnson and Shawnee Counties had to ask the Kansas Attorney General if cannabidiol (CBD) was legal. Even then, Attorney General Schmidt was only able to cobble together a heavily-challenged opinion out of a labyrinth of legal citations.

Before April 20, 2018, nobody seemed to be able to say for certain if CBD with .3% or less THC was legal to buy, sell or use. In April and May of 2018, Gov. Jeff Colyer signed two bills that would more clearly define the law in Kansas regarding CBD.

But why was there this absurd, chaotic four-year period during which police raided holistic shops, an attorney general sued a whole city, 10 Kansas sheriffs tried to sue Colorado, and congressmen drafted and killed cannabis bills as if they were picking off buffalo on the open range in the 1800s?

It all began with the signing of the 2014 Farm Bill. Section 7606 of the bill made it legal to study the growth, cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp in states that allowed hemp farming. Once Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill, Kansas legislators vigorously began conjuring up bills pertaining to cannabis.

These short-lived bills proposed to legalize industrial hemp and/or decriminalize medicinal marijuana. Many of the bills passed in the House and died in the Senate.

So why would legislators on both sides of the aisle in a state that has not yet legalized marijuana be scrambling to pass bills to grow industrial hemp?

Farmers. Industrial hemp requires half the water of wheat and yields four times the income. And according to Forbes, hemp oil is projected to become a billion-dollar industry. Even the most conservative person does not require an economist to explain the economic appeal of such a crop.

Consumers. Increasingly, people are using CBD as a safe way to manage symptoms of diseases such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s. These are the people driving the demand for the production of industrial hemp products.

Many swings, many misses…

The following timeline describes four years of Kansas’ clumsy attempts at creating and clarifying cannabis laws.

2013 KS SB 9—An act that sought to make medical marijuana legal. It died in committee in 2014.

2015 KS HB 2049—This bill would have reduced penalties for marijuana possession, allowed medical hemp treatments for seizure disorders, and permitted the cultivation of industrial hemp for research. Portions of its content went into KS HB 2282, which died, and KS HB 2462 which was approved by the governor in 2016.

2015 KS HB 2282—A bill with very narrow language that focused on legalizing CBD oil for the treatment of seizure disorders. It died in 2016.

2015 KS HB 2329—An early alternative crop research act for cultivating industrial hemp.

2015—The City of Wichita votes to reduce penalties for first-time marijuana offenders. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt immediately sued the city, arguing that Wichita had no authority to reduce criminal penalties. The Kansas Supreme Court invalidated the city’s initiative because of a technicality in the petition-gathering process.

2016 KS HB 2462—A bill signed by Gov. Brownback in May of 2016 that reduced the criminal penalty for first-time possession of marijuana to a lesser misdemeanor, from one year and a $2,500-fine to six months and a $1,000-fine. It also moved the punishment for a subsequent conviction from a felony to a Class B misdemeanor. One might see this as a nod to Wichita’s initiative if one did not know that the Wichita initiative called for no arrest for first-offenders and a $50 fine. So, basically a parking ticket.

2016 KS HB 2634—Another attempt at an alternative crop research act for industrial hemp. It died in committee on 06/01/16.

2017 KS HB 2182—The Kansas Agricultural Industry Growth Act.

This is the story of how a bill with lots of momentum can get squashed by lobbyists. It passed in the Kansas House with overwhelming support from both sides by a vote of 103-18.  However, it died in the Kansas Senate because law enforcement organizations lobbied against it.

2017 KS SB 151, KS SB 155, KS SB 187, and KS HB 2348—All bills for eliminating criminal and professional penalties for “non-intoxicating cannabinoid medicines” and providing “safe access” for the use of cannabinoids for medical conditions. Every one of these bills died in May 2018.

January 2018—The Kansas Attorney General’s Opinion on the Legality of CBD. In May of 2017, a shop in Mission, Kansas was raided for selling CBD with trace amounts of THC. The shop owner thought he was following federal law enacted by the 2014 Farm Bill that allows for .3 % or THC content or less.

The raid prompted calls to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office. People wanted to know if it was legal to possess CBD. Prosecutors had to request the opinion of Kansas District Attorney Derek Schmidt on the matter. Schmidt then lumped together several technical arguments to not only claim that CBD containing trace amounts of THC was illegal, but that CBD that does not contain THC is illegal, as well. This, he reasoned, was because Kansas drug codes and DEA definitions of marijuana do not exclude cannabidiol. No wonder people are confused! It’s like saying that Vitamin C is an orange because it is found in oranges.

2018 KS SB 263—A bill creating a program to research industrial hemp. Signed by Gov. Colyer on April 20, 2018.

This is a watered-down version of the earlier Kansas Agricultural Industry Growth Act that had passed in the House. It is much more limited in how it allows hemp industry to develop. It defines “industrial hemp” as containing .3% THC or less. And it amends Kansas drug codes so that industrial hemp is no longer prohibited or defined as marijuana when it is associated with the alternative research crop act.

This last part is nonsensical, as it seeks to change what is and isn’t marijuana according to the circumstance and association. One could quite effectively argue that if industrial hemp is not considered marijuana when associated with the alternative research crop act, then it never is.

2018 KS SB 282—A bill that excludes cannabidiol from the definition of marijuana. Signed by Gov. Colyer on May 14, 2018.

This bill would seem to clarify the legality of CBD, but THC, however, is still listed as a Schedule I drug. The amendment does not specify about cannabidiol containing trace amounts of THC. However, the definition of industrial hemp in SB 263 allows for .3% THC and does not define industrial hemp as Marijuana. So, as long as CBD comes from industrial hemp, it’s legal.

Now that’s logic enough to make a Kansas Attorney General proud!

But this seems to be the nature of Kansas Law pertaining to industrial hemp and medical marijuana right now. It’s made up of many confused, unsure and fearful baby steps and struggling to grow into a world that recognizes the real scientific benefits of cannabinoids and is no longer mystified by the Reefer Madness propaganda of special interest groups.


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