Legalized marijuana for recreational use is getting a lot of attention lately as Colorado makes it available as a mainstream business.
While Kansas doesn't have legalized medical or recreational marijuana, Kansas's legislators can be sure medical marijuana will show up sometime during the 2014 session.
For several years, a medical marijuana bill has been introduced but has struggled to get anywhere. Sen. David Haley introduced SB 9 that would make medical marijuana legal. It was the fourth year in a row he had introduced a marijuana bill. Last year is never made it out of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
"I don't think that Kansas will move to make state laws less stringent on this subject, although two legislators file Senate Bill 9 almost every year to move towards Colorado's policies on medical marijuana. The bills have never made it to the house floor as they die in legislative committees every year," said Rep. Marshall Christmann.
If SB 9 does survive committee, it could get to the floor for discussion. House speaker Ray Merrick said he would not stand in the way of discussion if it gets out of committee, said Sen. Mitch Holmes.
A medical issue that could influence discussion on medical marijuana is a synthetic version that is already legal. Marinol is supposed to have the same active ingredients to fight nausea. A prescription is necessary for marinol but it is already available, Holmes said.
If medical marijuana were legalized, then Kansas would be in conflict with federal law just as Colorado. How that legal problem will be played out in Colorado has yet to be determined but it would be the same issue here.
"As far as Kansas, I think there might be an upsurge in arrests on the Kansas/Colorado side of the border as the logistics of Colorado is closer than the DEA's or KBI's normal speculated traffic stream," Christmann said.
The matter of legality has to be sorted out between the Justice Department and the state attorneys general.
The Obama administration will be over in January 2017 and a new president could influence where the country goes on this issue, Holmes said.
For now, some interest is stirring to make medical marijuana the law in Kansas. The Silver Hair Legislature has shown its support of passing the legislature.
"I was surprised to learn that the Silver Hair Legislature this year put forth and passed a resolution requesting Kansas Legislators pass Senate Bill 9," Christmann said.
While the legislators deal with the medical marijuana issue, another legal battle is already underway.
Those who travel from out of state to Colorado to purchase an ounce of marijuana for $400, about the same price as a pound and a half of silver, have an important legal decision to make before they their trip home.
It's legal to have that ounce of marijuana in Colorado, but once that ounce crosses the state line in any direction, it is automatically possession, said Pratt County Attorney Ken Van Blaricum.
Possession is a Class A misdemeanor in Kansas and it could result in a year in the county jail and probation for a year. If it is the second offense, it automatically becomes a felony and the penalties are much stronger including a possible prison sentence, Van Blaricum said.
It the person is on probation, it could result in loss of probation and they could go to jail to serve out their sentence depending on the judge.
"That scenario is happening a lot," said Van Blaricum who has been working on three cases for the last year or so on just this issue.
Even if a person buys and uses the marijuana in Colorado, if they come across the state line into Kansas, it could result in a DUI again with some legal ramifications.
This Colorado to Kansas trip is happening a lot in Kansas and Van Blaricum said he has seen results of it in Pratt. People are traveling to Colorado to get marijuana and then bringing it back to Pratt to sell and that is an even more serious crime.
It was not hard to get medical marijuana in Colorado and bring it back to Pratt. Now with recreational marijuana, it is even easier.