Gubernatorial Candidate Says Kansas Could Have Legal Pot Next Year

Photo: Lukasz Stefanski/ shutterstock

WICHITA, Kan. — The Wichita Eagle reported Thursday that Kansas gubernatorial candidate Josh Svaty believes marijuana could be legal in the state by next year.

Svaty told a group of around 40 voters at a coffee shop on the campaign trail that it was quite possible that legislation legalizing medical marijuana could reach his desk within a year, noting that the last bill only failed by a few votes.

The Kansas House of Representatives failed to pass medical marijuana legalization by just 15 votes in March. Many politicians who voted against the legislation said at the time that they had compassion for the medical marijuana consumers and would vote to approve a medical marijuana bill if it were properly vetted.

Mr. Svaty's website notes that the debate on marijuana legalization is spreading rapidly and will mostly be decided on the federal level.

Svaty is a Democrat and one-time state Representative, having run and won against the Republican incumbent in the traditionally red state. Svaty was re-elected three times.

The candidate for governor is also supportive of decriminalization, saying that he would be open to signing a bill that would end criminal penalties for marijuana possession once elected.

Candidate for Governor Surprised by Voters Interest in Marijuana

Svaty said that he was surprised that marijuana legalization was such a hot issue, noting that when he went on the campaign trail, he was asked in nearly every county he visited about marijuana. Svaty visited all 105 of the state's counties.

Svaty supports medical marijuana, saying on his website that he believes consumers who are terminally ill or suffering from certain conditions should be able to have marijuana. He said that if he is elected, he will not obstruct medical marijuana consumers seeking medical marijuana.

The former State Representative also said that he would not waste time filling prisons with non-violent petty pot crimes, adding that legalization is an opportunity for the state to embrace reforming the criminal justice system.

Kansas borders both Colorado, a state with legal marijuana, and Missouri, which has decriminalized the drug and will likely legalize medical marijuana in the fall. Svaty says that law enforcement would be heavily impacted by surrounding states because of the interstate traffic between the three states. Svaty says that policing the interstate for people in possession of marijuana would overwhelm law enforcement.

Svaty believes that Kansas has the privilege of hindsight and can avoid any mistakes that Colorado and other legal marijuana states have done wrong with good planning and implementation.

Kansas Has Hemp Pilot Program in the Works

The state has recently begun the process of creating a state hemp research program. Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the Alternative Crop Research Act last month which outlines hemp cultivation procedures for farmers. The federal government passed the Farm Bill of 2014 which allows universities and states to cultivate and research industrial hemp as long as there is a state law allowing hemp cultivation.

The pilot-program will focus on growing, researching, and selling hemp. The Kansas Department of Agriculture will oversee the program, including choosing farmers to grow hemp. The Department of Agriculture held three public forums on May 11 to educate farmers, ranchers, and investors about the program and to answer questions from the public.

The legislation is the first law in the state legalizing a derivative of cannabis since it was banned in the 1920's.