By CELIA LLOPIS-JEPSEN
Kansas lawmakers may once have thought stiffer penalties for marijuana made sense, but in recent years crowded prisons forced them to take another look.
One of the changes, made in 2016, reduced the crime of being caught with marijuana a second time from a felony to a misdemeanor.
But on Tuesday, the Kansas Sentencing Commission said that change overlooked state law that still keeps harsher penalties on the books for getting caught with pot residue than for possession of marijuana.
Scott Schultz, the commission’s executive director, said that “seemed inequitable.”
“It only seemed natural or made common sense that those penalties should be the same,” he said.
The situation arose because Kansas state law has separate language for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and marijuana possession. THC is the primary compound in marijuana that makes people high. Traces can be found on drug paraphernalia, or it can exist independently of marijuana in lab-derived versions.
The only objections to the sentencing commission’s proposal came from citizens or organizations who want lawmakers to go further. A resident of Inman, Kansas, asked the panel to decriminalize marijuana.
The ACLU of Kansas, meanwhile, wants lawmakers to clarify whether they intend cannabidiol, or CBD, oil to be considered marijuana and therefore illegal.
CBD is a substance that can be extracted from marijuana separate from the THC that makes people high. Some people say it helps treat seizures and pain, and it is allowed for medical purposes in some states where marijuana is illegal. Companies are seeking FDA approval for drugs containing CBD, but no such drugs have been approved so far.
Late last month, the Kansas attorney general’s office said under current Kansas law, it believes CBD counts as marijuana and is illegal regardless of whether it contains THC.
The ACLU wants lawmakers to weigh in because the attorney general’s opinion isn’t binding on law enforcement agencies, creating a risk that CBD will be treated as legal in some parts of the state and illegal in others.
The ACLU favors allowing CBD for medical uses.