Kansas legislative session ends with pair of waivers, calls for better drug policy

TOPEKA — Kansas lawmakers closed the 2022 legislative session on Monday by overriding a round of governor vetoes, ironing out details on remaining bills and debating a resolution challenging proposed World Health Organization regulations. health.

A bill approved before the House adjourned with minimal opposition would amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow certain FDA-approved drugs containing essential marijuana-derived ingredients for Kansans with epilepsy. A provision that would have decriminalized fentanyl test strips was removed from the bill at the request of Republican senators late last month, before lawmakers took a long break.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid commonly associated with heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA. When people don’t know if or how much of the potent drug they are consuming, the risk of overdose increases.

Representative Brenda Landwehr lamented the need to delete the provision, but told her colleagues that the Senate would let the bill die if this version of the bill did not win the approval of representatives.

“The underlying bill will save lives and provide a better quality of life,” the Wichita Republican said.

But Rep. Jason Probst, a Hutchinson Democrat, said both measures were good causes and the House shouldn’t have to decide between them like the Senate forced them to. He proposed a motion to send the bill to committee, which GOP officials rejected.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 338 overdose deaths in the state from January 1, 2021 through June 30, 2021. Of that total, 149 were related to fentanyl or fentanyl analogues. The total represented a 54% increase in overdose deaths compared to the same six-month period in 2020.

“The idea that we can just tell kids not to use drugs and that’s enough has proven ineffective,” Probst said. “If it was effective, we wouldn’t be dealing with what we’re dealing with today. We wrote a law in 1981 thinking it would help. We are dealing with different drugs. We’re dealing with poison, and it’s time to change the law.

The bill now goes to Governor Laura Kelly for approval.

Rep. Susan Ruiz, D-Shawnee, took the opportunity to note that the content of the bill would not be necessary had the Senate acted on a medical marijuana bill already approved by the House.

In a statement following the Senate adjournment, Sen. Rob Olson, a Republican from Olathe and chairman of the Senate Federal-State Affairs Committee, took responsibility for not crossing the finish line to the extent of medical marijuana this session.

“I look forward to doing substantial summer interim work with the primary goal of starting the 2023 legislative session with a near-complete product ready to go to both houses for consideration and approval,” Olson said.

Medical cannabis and fentanyl test strips were on a list of five priorities that House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer demanded before the Legislative Assembly adjourned. The Wichita Democrat also called for a series of tax relief measures, a constitutional amendment on gerrymandering and additional funds for special education.

“Despite much work to be completed, Republicans are eager to adjourn so they can get down to fundraising and focus on re-elections,” Sawyer said. “Their first priority must be to complete the work that is left on the table. We are public servants, but their focus today is to serve themselves.

Before adjourning, the legislature overruled a veto on a bill that will prevent renegotiation of the state’s Medicaid contract and a ban on executive branch officials changing election rules without legislative input.

They also sent the governor tax bill with relief for small businesses injured by COVID-19.

Both chambers were poised to have a full plate of work, but the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision to uphold newly drawn congressional and legislative maps lightened their load considerably.

The Senate also passed a resolution based on misinformation and says the Biden administration’s proposed amendments to the WHO’s International Health Regulations would give its director general sweeping authority over U.S. health care decisions. Reading the resolution, Senator Mike Thompson said the WHO would require vaccination passports for travel, work requirements and more.

“Such amendments would allow the WHO to unilaterally declare an international health emergency in a member country,” Thompson said.

A Associated Press fact check showed that the assertions asserted in the resolution are false.

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