Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly maintains that passing medical marijuana legislation could still happen this session even though the legislature is currently indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Kelly outlined the possibility in an interview with local news station KSNT when asked about the status of the 2020 legislative session.
“The Legislative Coordinating Committee decided they would not reconvene on April 27th, they will have to come back sometime in the near future though,” Kelly said.
Kelly went on to say that this does not preclude lawmakers from reviewing and debating pending bills, including one to legalize medical cannabis.
“The possibility of medicaid expansion still exists this session as well as legalizing medical marijuana in Kansas,” Kelly said.
What’s more, Gov. Kelly is optimistic that a medical cannabis bill would be approved by lawmakers.
“There’s been some discussion about legalizing medical marijuana. I think that discussion continues and I think if it actually was able to come to a vote, I think that it probably would pass the legislature,” she said.
The same cannot be said for adult-use cannabis legalization, though she recently indicated that she would be open to signing a bill to legalize recreational marijuana if it were to make its way to her desk.
“I think the issue of recreational marijuana is still not on the table,” the Kansas governor said.
While Kelly is primarily focused on passing medical marijuana legislation, a recent poll found that a majority of Kansas residents are in favor of full cannabis legalization. But many Kansas lawmakers are still resistant to even modest marijuana reforms. A congressional committee recently voted against a bill that would have downgraded cannabis possession to a misdemeanor irrespective of how many times an individual had been convicted of such an offense.
While it is unclear when lawmakers will reconvene – or whether a majority would vote in favor of a medical cannabis bill – Gov. Kelly’s optimism comes as a boost for those hoping for reform to Kansas’s marijuana laws at a time when much progress and momentum across the country has halted owing to the COVID-19 outbreak.
New York’s hopes for adult-use cannabis legalization this year have been dashed. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has attempted to legalize marijuana for the past two years through his annual budget for the state. But he conceded that New York’s legislative session for this year is “effectively over” and that cannabis reform was too complicated a matter to work through as the state battles against the spread of the coronavirus and the economic harms of the lockdown.
Cannabis reform activists in Missouri, who aimed to put a marijuana legalization question on the state’s November 2020 ballot, have also called time on their signature-drive efforts for this year. They said collecting signatures to qualify for the ballot was all but impossible owing to social distancing guidelines in place to prevent transmission of the virus.
Across the border in Mexico, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Supreme Court granted lawmakers another extension to the deadline by which cannabis must be legalized. The nation’s highest court ruled in 2018 that Mexico’s prohibition on cannabis possession and cultivation is unconstitutional so they imposed a deadline for lawmakers to pass adult-use marijuana legislation. Mexican lawmakers now have until December 15, 2020, to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling.