Health at the Capitol — Digging into the Kansas Medical Marijuana Debate (July 2,



Kansas is one of three states with no medical marijuana program. While the Kansas Legislature has considered bills related to medical marijuana over the past several years, only Senate Bill (SB) 282 was passed into law. That bill, from the 2018 legislative session, removed cannabidiol (CBD), a compound in marijuana that is not psychoactive, from the controlled substances list and paved the way for the sale in Kansas of CBD products that contain no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.  

This edition of Health at the Capitol digs into the medical marijuana debate in Kansas by comparing two comprehensive medical marijuana bills introduced during the 2021 legislative session. It also looks at comprehensive and limited medical marijuana laws in other states.

Health at the Capitol is a weekly summary providing highlights of the Kansas legislative session, with a specific focus on health policy related issues. Sign up here to receive these summaries and more, and also follow KHI on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn. Previous editions of Health at the Capitol can be found on our ARCHIVE PAGE.


Current Kansas Legislation

On May 6, 2021, the Kansas House passed House Substitute (H. Sub.) for SB 158, which would create the Kansas Medical Marijuana Regulation Act and the Kansas Medical Marijuana Regulation Program; define terms related to the bill; amend laws concerning crimes, child welfare, employment and discipline of certain medical professionals; create provisions to address federal re-scheduling of marijuana; and rename the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Kansas Department of Revenue, as the Division of Alcohol and Cannabis Control. After the House passed the bill, Senate President Ty Masterson stated he did not anticipate the Senate taking up the bill this session but noted the bill would be available for consideration during the 2022 session and suggested that a joint committee may consider it during the interim period. On May 7, the Senate ruled the bill as “materially changed” and referred it to the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. SB 315, which would create the Kansas Medical Marijuana Regulation Act, also was introduced by the Senate on May 7 and was referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

Figure 1 compares select provisions in H. Sub. for SB 158 (124 pages) and SB 315 (84 pages). (Text in bold indicates material differences between the bills.)

Laws in Other States

As of May 18, 2021, 36 states and the District of Columbia have approved comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana/cannabis programs and an additional 11 states have approved limited access medical marijuana laws to allow use of “low THC, high CBD” products for medical reasons in limited situations or as a legal defense. In addition, as of April 19, 2021, 17 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to regulate cannabis for adult recreational use.

The following figures provide a brief overview of states that have statutory and regulatory provisions legalizing medical marijuana. The information is based on two primary sources: the Network for Public Health Law (as of February 14, 2019) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (as of May 18, 2021).

Figure 2 describes several common characteristics of comprehensive programs. NCSL defines a program as comprehensive if it has the following elements: 1) protection from criminal penalties for using marijuana for a medical purpose; 2) access to marijuana through home cultivation, dispensaries or some other system that is likely to be implemented; 3) it allows a variety of strains or products, including those with more than “low” THC; 4) it allows either smoking or vaporization of some kind of marijuana product, plant material or extract; and 5) it is not a limited trial program (South Dakota and Nebraska have limited trial programs that are not open to the public).

Figure 3 provides an overview of several common characteristics of “limited” medical marijuana programs. These states allow use of “low THC, high CBD” products for medical reasons in limited situations or as a legal defense. “CBD is the main ingredient of the FDA-approved drug Epidiolex®.

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.


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