Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, supported legalizing both recreational and medical marijuana similar to Colorado. In an e-mail to The Eagle on Wednesday evening, Finney said her original comments referred only to medical marijuana.
A Wichita Democrat thinks Kansas should consider legalizing medical marijuana as a way to generate revenue in the face of the state’s staggering budget hole.
Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, has repeatedly introduced legislation to approve medical marijuana but has never been able to get a hearing.
Colorado took in about $45 million in tax revenue from medical and recreational sales of marijuana between January and August, according to a September report from the Washington Post.
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In the wake of the news that the state faces a $280 million budget hole through June and a cumulative hole of $1.4 billion over the following two years, Finney says Kansas should consider moving forward with medical marijuana.
“Additional revenue for the state budget. Could you imagine what that would do for us at a time like this?” Finney said. “The state needs to at least consider it, you know at least have the opportunity to evaluate it, not completely have a blind eye like they’ve done continuously.”
Finney said if the choice is between legalizing medical marijuana or making cuts to social services, it should be an easy one to make.
“We need to look at other additional sources of revenue because it’s at a critical point right now and it’s going to be affecting a lot of people,” Finney said. “We need to be more open-minded.”
Although Finney said Kansas should follow Colorado’s example, she said her comments applied only to medical marijuana.
Colorado allows both recreational marijuana and medical marijuana.
Recreational sales in Colorado surpassed medical sales for the first time in August when dispensaries sold $34.1 million worth of marijuana for recreational purposes and $33.4 million worth for medical purposes. These combined sales resulted in $7.5 million in tax revenue for that month, according to the Washington Post.
However, Finney may not get much traction with the idea in the Republican-dominated House.
“Marijuana legalization is not the focus of any type of revenue discussions,” said House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, in an e-mail.