Kansas Legalization Advocates Form New Group to Grade Lawmakers

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    A new effort for legalizing marijuana in Kansas aims to put lawmakers in the crosshairs by forcing a public a yes or no commitment.

    Past legalization measures have failed in the statehouse. Advocates point to at least one survey showing the majority of Kansas voters support it.

    The newly created Cannabis Justice Coalition is counting on that support to sway voters as state elections get underway this summer.

    “This year, every single state legislator is up for reelection, so we are running our candidate Mary Jane,” said Inga Selders, the founder and executive director of the group.

    Selders is also on the Prairie Village City Council. Fellow council member Ian Graves is on the group’s six-member board. Selders said it was important to her that the coalition be bi-partisan.

    It includes former U.S. Attorney for the State of Kansas Barry Grissom, a Democrat, and Utah activist Weldon Angelos. Angelos joined with Kansas billionaire Charles Koch and Americans for Prosperity to found the Cannabis Freedom Alliance. That group’s focus is recruiting Republican members of Congress to the cause.

    Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling marijuana while carrying a handgun. President Obama commuted his sentence in 2016 after he served 13 years. In 2020, President Trump granted him a full and unconditional pardon.

    Graves expressed concern about inequitable enforcement of marijuana laws and espoused a Libertarian perspective on marijuana legalization.

    “We should just let people use it how they will within reason, regulated like alcohol, let people make their own grown up decisions,” Graves said.

    Selders is on the same page, questioning why it’s okay to relax after work with a glass of wine but not a joint or edible. But, her support is more than a matter of principal. It’s also personal.

    Her older sister, Tanya, took pain medication ever since she was a child.

    “She was born with some physical disabilities and so pain management was a part of her everyday life,” Selders explained.

    In 2020, when Tanya was 30 years old, her doctor switched her medication to OxyContin. It was the new miracle pain drug.

    “Within a few months she became addicted to it and had an accidental overdose and died,” Selders said. “I fully believe that if she would have had the opportunity to manage her pain with cannabis, the outcome for her would have been very, very different.”

    Three of the four states bordering Kansas have legalized cannabis to some extent. Recreational use is legal in Colorado and Missouri. Medical use is legal in Oklahoma.

    Missouri’s legalization came by petition initiative calling for a Constitutional amendment. It was not lawmakers but individual voters who made it happen. Kansas law does not allow for a vote of the people unless lawmakers seek to change the State Constitution. In that case, a vote of the public occurs to approve or reject the change set forth by lawmakers.

    “We have to use the tools available at our disposal,” said Graves.

    That’s why the Cannabis Justice Coalition is focusing on providing a candidate report card to voters who feel passionate about the topic.

    “We will be letting the public know where the candidates stand on these issues,” Graves said. “We’ll be finding out from them directly, whether or not they want to respond to us, yes or no, or not at all, we’ll publish that information and the voters can make an informed decision on cannabis in 2024.”

    The group is pushing for full legalization in one fell swoop, skipping the step of legalizing medical first.

    The candidate section of their website is still blank as they are only just beginning to get underway. Key dates for the State Senate and House of Representatives primary are below:

    • June 3: Deadline to change party affiliation (noon). Kansas voters must affiliate with a party to vote in a primary.
    • July 16: Deadline to register or update voter registration
    • August 6: Primary Election Day