The State of Cannabis: Kansas is “No Place Like Home” for Marijuana


This is number five in our series ranking the fifty states on cannabis from worst to best. Alabama was last week, ranking as the fourth worst state for cannabis. This week we head to the middle of the country, where Kansas is truly flat when it comes to marijuana laws.


Criminal Penalties. Possessing less than 450 grams of cannabis in Kansas can result in up to one year in prison and up to a $2,500 fine. Any subsequent possession offense can result in a $100,000 fine and up to 3.5 years in jail.

The Kansas State Legislature is considering a bill to reduce some of these penalties and the Kansas Senate recently approved a bill to reduce punishment for first-time possession to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, and punish a second possession with up to a year in jail. The bill gained strong bipartisan support and has a good chance of becoming law if it passes through the Kansas House of Representatives.

But even if this bill does pass, Kansas would still have harsh penalties for possession and its harsh penalties for charges beyond possession would remain unchanged. For any amount over 450 grams, there is a rebuttable presumption that the person in possession of the marijuana has it with an intent to distribute. This means that anyone caught with more than 450 grams has the burden of proving he or she did not intend to sell it. Normally, a prosecutor must prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This shift makes it much more difficult to defend oneself in a Kansas court for marijuana. Possession with intent to distribute warrants a 10-42 month jail sentence and up to a $100,000 fine.

If the police catch a person selling marijuana in Kansas, he or she likely will face serious time and huge penalties, as the following illustrates:

  • Sale of less than 25 grams is punishable by 14 months probation – 51 years imprisonment and a fine up to $300,000.
  • Sale of 25-450 grams is punishable by 46 – 83 months imprisonment and a fine up to $300,000.
  • Sale of 450 grams – 30 kilograms is punishable by 92 – 144 months imprisonment and a fine up to $500,000.
  • Sale of 30 kilograms or more is punishable by 138 – 204 months imprisonment and a fine up to $500,000.

Chance of Legalization. Republicans dominate Kansas state politics and the state does not have an initiative process. That makes legalization in Kansas very unlikely. Kansas currently has no legalized marijuana; it prohibits both recreational and medical use. The lack of an initiative process is especially discouraging considering a recent poll showed that the majority of Kansas citizens actually support marijuana legalization, according to Kansas Speaks, a statewide pubic opinion survey:

When asked about marijuana policy, over two thirds of respondents favored allowing medical marijuana in Kansas, while almost as many (63%) favored decriminalizing recreational marijuana so that personal possession would only involve a fine, rather than jail time.

The bill that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession (mentioned above) originally had a provision that would have allowed some medical patients to legally access high-CBD oil, but that was removed.

Marijuana use and Parenthood. Cannabis use can render a person unfit to raise a child in Kansas and that is why Raymond Schwab, an honorably discharged veteran who traveled to Colorado for medical marijuana,  lost custody of his children. The Denver Post reports that the Gulf War Veteran lost custody of his five youngest children in April 2015 and has only seen them three times since. At that time, the state investigated whether Mr. Schwab and his wife had emotionally abused the five children. The state subsequently dismissed the allegations as unsubstantiated.

Mr. Schwab travels to Colorado to access medical marijuana. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and like many other veterans, uses marijuana to alleviate his symptoms. Now a judge in Kansas is ordering at least four months of clean urinalysis tests before Mr. Schwab can regain custody of his children.

Bottomline. Kansas has extremely harsh penalties for marijuana use. The state does not allow marijuana in any form and at least one of its judges sees no issue in forcing parents to choose between their own children and their mental health. Though the people of Kansas appear to want change, Kansas lawmakers seem just fine with ignoring those wishes. Unless and until Kansas changes, it will round out our worst five states for marijuana. Next week we write about a state known for doing things in a big way, including treating cannabis users badly.

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