Capitol Update: Rep. Dan Osman says it’s time for a change on marijuana in Kansas

Rep. Dan Osman. File photo.

Each week during the 2023 Kansas legislative session, we will provide Blue Valley area lawmakers the opportunity to share their thoughts about what is happening in the state capitol.

Below is this week’s submission from Democratic Rep. Dan Osman of Kansas House District 48 in Overland Park. 

This past Friday, crowds lined up outside dispensaries all across Missouri to purchase recently legalized recreational marijuana. Every adult there is now allowed to buy and possess up to 3 ounces for personal use. It’s been almost completely decriminalized.

Meanwhile, just a few short miles to the west, it’s still illegal in Kansas to possess any marijuana for any reason. Regardless of your medical needs, possession of marijuana is punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 for a first-time offense. Subsequent convictions here can be a felony punishable by up to 42 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $100,000.

It’s 2023, and we’re surrounded on all four sides by states that have moved forward on this issue. In Missouri and Colorado, it’s fully legal. In Nebraska it’s decriminalized and in Oklahoma medicinal marijuana is allowed. Kansas is one of just four states that have utterly failed to address marijuana legalization in any way.

That’s not to say we haven’t tried. In 2021, the Kansas House passed a bill that died in the Senate. In 2022, dozens of House members – myself included – co-sponsored two resolutions which would allow the people of Kansas to vote on the legality of marijuana. Neither resolution received a hearing.

It’s expected that recreational marijuana sales in Missouri could reach $550 million in the first year. At a 6-9% tax on purchases, that’s a potential $33 to $50 million in revenue this year alone.

But it goes beyond just money in our coffers. How many people are currently in prison charged with possession of marijuana? How many more people are needlessly stopped and searched on the belief that they possess cannabis? How many people have their money, their property, even their car seized on the mistaken belief that they’re running drugs? They do not need to be convicted or even charged to have all their property taken and their life turned upside down. This is called civil asset forfeiture, and it’s another topic I’ve been working on for several years in the legislature.

Even just medicinally, cannabis could be used to ease the pain and lessen the severity of symptoms on a wide variety of medical issues. Fentanyl is a powerful opiate up to 100 times more potent than morphine and it’s used every day by hospitals across Kansas. We trust doctors in Kansas to prescribe and administer a host of powerful drugs but marijuana is for some reason off limits. We can’t trust our medical professionals to properly use a plant that’s so abundant we literally call it a weed.

Medicinally, civilly, socially and fiscally, it is clear it’s time for the legislature to change its stance on marijuana laws in Kansas.