Pot aid

1/22/2014

Time to open up debate over medical marijuana.

Time to open up debate over medical marijuana.

Unlikely as it seems that conservative Kansas will join anything-goes Colorado in decriminalizing pot, Kansas advocates of medicinal marijuana are due committee hearings and a full debate at the Statehouse.

So are Kansans, given that 70 percent of those polled a year ago by SurveyUSA for KWCH, Channel 12, favored legalizing medical pot.

A more than two-thirds majority of the Kansas Silver-Haired Legislature also recently recommended a bill to allow people to use marijuana if they have certain medical conditions and a physician's recommendation.

Such endorsements merit notice by the full Legislature, apart from the rapid gains that the legalization movement is making elsewhere in the country.

And how interesting it would be to see a medical marijuana bill voted on in even one chamber in Topeka.

Would the GOP's traditional tough-on-crime stance prevail? Or would the majority conservatives sympathize with the libertarian case for individual freedom and personal responsibility, and for allowing legal access to an alternative medical treatment found to ease suffering for the ill and dying?

Then there's the appeal of the new revenue stream that legalized medicinal marijuana could provide as Kansas tries to eliminate state income taxes. Colorado collected $5.4 million in sales tax from $199.1 million in medical marijuana purchases in fiscal 2012.

State Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, and others have had no success with medical marijuana bills since 2009. But to his credit, House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, has indicated he won't block such a bill (though he wouldn't favor it either).

There are worthy arguments against joining the more than 20 states that allow medicinal use of marijuana, including the problems created by its continuing illegality at the federal level.

Let's hear both sides debated at the Statehouse.

-- The Wichita Eagle

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