By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE — Supporters of controlled cannabis in Kansas now have an unexpected ally in the fight: a coalition of Sunflower State seniors.
State Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, and Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, have both previously sponsored measures to legalize and regulate the sale and possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes in recent years, but have been stymied each time — their bills never made it out of committee.
But a non-binding resolution passed by Kansas’ Silver Haired Legislature — a group of 125 Kansans age 60 or older — has injected a more experienced voice into a debate traditionally dominated by the young.
The Silver Haired Legislature approved the resolution supporting Haley’s Cannabis Compassion and Care Act late last week.
“We know it’s controversial, but so is getting up in the morning when you get to be our age,” 80-year-old president Jim Snyder told the Lawrence Journal-World.
Finney said the group has played a part in promoting legislation in recent years, pointing to the so-called Grandparents Bill last year that affords greater custodial rights to grandparents over their grandchildren.
“Their visibility on this issue is going to be really important,” Finney told Kansas Watchdog.
The representative hopes the involvement of older Kansans will spur legislative leaders to simply allow a discussion of the matter. Finney said former Republican Speaker Mike O’Neal had previously blackballed such legislation.
“As long as he was the House speaker, it would never happen under his watch,” Finney said.
Haley noted that Colorado’s decision to fully legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana will pressure Kansas to institute some kind of reform.
“Colorado has shown that the sky has not fallen because people have holistic opportunities to ease their pain,” Haley said, adding that Kansas is likely missing out on windfall tax revenues. “I was told that some of the best marijuana that they have in Colorado comes from Kansas. It is another wrinkle. We’re not taxing one of our largest, currently illegal, cash crops. We’re losing a lot of revenue.”
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