Currently (as of January 2021), Kansas prohibits both recreational and medical marijuana use, but does authorize the commercial sale of hemp. Several medical marijuana bills (HB 2163, SB 113, HB 2303, and SB 195) were proposed in the 2019 Kansas legislative session, and none received votes. After suspending its 2020 session early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kansas legislature held a short special session on June 3. One item on the agenda for the June 3rd special session, HB 2017 (which would have legalized medical marijuana) failed to advance.
Governor Laura Kelly believes Kansas is not ready for recreational marijuana but does support the legalization of medical marijuana, stating “I think that there is some momentum in the Legislature to pass, to legalize medical marijuana. I think we would do it Kansas-style, where it would be well-regulated… I have always said that I want it well-regulated so that it’s controlled so that it’s not the first step to legalization of marijuana. I don’t want that. I want it to be seen as a pharmaceutical and controlled as we do that… I do believe that medical marijuana needs to be legalized… It does have medical uses, and I think it would do a lot for our families who have these kids with Dravet syndrome, which is that severe, frequent epileptic seizures, and I also think that it would help with the opioid crisis.”
Furthermore, Governor Kelly has stated she would “probably” approve recreational marijuana legalization if the Kansas Legislature sent her a bill, although it is not something she is “going to advocate for.”
According to a 2019 survey conducted by Fort Hays State University, 61.3% of Kansans “strongly support” legalizing medical marijuana and 76% at least “somewhat support” legalizing medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana is prohibited. However, a majority of Kansans, including Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, support legalizing medical marijuana. I
n 2018 and 2019, after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, Kansas amended its definition of “marijuana” to exclude CBD and hemp under its controlled substances statute. CBD is defined as “cannabidiol (other trade name: 2–[(3– methyl–6–(1–methylethenyl)–2–cyclohexen–1–yl]–5–pentyl–1,3–benzenediol),” and hemp is defined as “industrial hemp as defined in K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 2–3901, and amendments thereto, when cultivated, produced, possessed, or used for activities authorized by the commercial industrial hemp act.” K.S.A. § 21-5701(j).
In addition, Kansas enacted “Claire and Lola’s Law,” which prohibits the state or any political subdivisions from initiating proceedings to remove a child from the home of the child’s parent or guardian based solely upon the parent’s or child’s possession or use of a cannabidiol treatment preparation. A cannabidiol treatment preparation is defined as oil containing cannabidiol and having THC of less than 5% relative to cannabidiol concentration in the preparation, verified by a third-party independent lab. K.S.A. § 65-6235. Furthermore, while the parent or guardian has possession of the cannabidiol treatment preparation, such person shall possess a letter dated within the preceding 15 months and signed by a physician licensed to practice medicine and surgery in Kansas who diagnosed the user of the cannabidiol treatment preparation with a debilitating medical condition. K.S.A. § 21-5706 (d).
In 2018, Kansas enacted the Commercial Industrial Hemp Act. K.S.A. 2-3901, et seq. (the “Hemp Act”), which authorizes the commercial sale of hemp. The Hemp Act authorizes the issuance of licenses for the cultivation, processing, and distribution of industrial hemp, which is defined as “all parts and varieties of the plant cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not, that contain a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis.” K.S.A. § 2-3901(b)(7).
As part of the Hemp Act, Kansas enacted regulations regarding the import and export of hemp. Under a “pilot program,” Kansas limited the first two years of hemp sales to research purposes only. As such, someone licensed to possess hemp under Kansas law could not sell, transfer, purchase, or acquire hemp plants, plant parts, grain or seed to or from any individual or business entity outside Kansas who was authorized by an institution of higher education or a state department of agriculture under 7 U.S.C. § 5940, as amended, and the laws of that state. K.A.R. 4-34-15(b).
In 2020, the Kansas Department of Agriculture (“KDA”) submitted a plan to the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) detailing how the KDA will monitor and regulate commercial hemp production, as required by K.S.A. § 2-3906. In April 2020, the USDA approved the KDA’s proposed plan and Kansas codified the plan at K.A.R. 4-34-22 through K.A.R. 4-34-30. Starting January 8, 2021, the KDA will begin accepting applications and issuing licenses for the commercial sale of hemp, other than for research purposes. In 2019, the first year of legal hemp production in Kansas, the KDA issued 207 licenses for growers, 20 licenses for distributors, 35 licenses for processors, and 9 licenses for researchers.
Although the State reported a 30% rise in the number of grower applications for 2020, the KDA ultimately issued 205 licenses for growers, 21 licenses for distributors, 24 licenses for processors, and 7 licenses for researchers. As of the date of this publication, the KDA has not released information regarding applications for 2021. More information regarding the active licenses can be found at https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/plant-protect-weedcontrol/industrial-hemp/current-growers.
When analyzing the number of grower licenses, it is worth noting that the 2019 program limited growers to an 80-acre plot per license, requiring some growers to hold multiple licenses. However, the 2020 program increased the acreage limit to 230 acres per license.
In addition, growers reported experiencing difficulty in finding buyers for their 2019 hemp harvest. The processing and manufacturing of hemp in Kansas is lagging behind surrounding states which have all either decriminalized or fully legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.