Could medical marijuana help ease the state’s budget woes? Advocates say yes – The Topeka Capital-Journal

It was set to be a major breakthrough for medical marijuana advocates.

Twelve years after the first bill on the matter was introduced, after numerous false starts over the years, legislators were ready to schedule a committee hearing on establishing a medical cannabis program.

While committee meetings on the matter had happened in the past, advocates felt there was a real path forward on getting the bill passed — that 2020 wouldn’t be a year in which the matter died on the floor of the House or Senate.

Then COVID-19 happened.

Lawmakers went home early in March, and when they returned in June, it was for a special session focused solely on the coronavirus.

That left medical marijuana out in the cold.

“COVID happened and things were up in the air about the possibility of coming back and we just were not able to resume hearings in the capitol at that point,” said Rep. Cindy Holscher, D-Olathe, who worked on medical marijuana legislation. “It felt like all systems were moving forward and then COVID changed it.”

But the past year has strengthened the case for medical marijuana, advocates argue.

Only eight states, including Kansas, lack a program that allows residents with certain conditions, ranging from epilepsy to post-traumatic stress disorder, to use marijuana to treat their symptoms.

Before Kansas lawmakers return to session in January, voters in two of those states, Nebraska and South Dakota, will decide whether they want medical marijuana to be legalized.

Kansans lack the option of putting medical marijuana on the ballot. But if