Key Quote: But Gov. Laura Kelly’s latest proposal in the lengthy fight to expand the Medicaid program in Kansas is serious, and sensible besides…The commonsense choice for Kansas is clear.

Proposal to tie Medicaid expansion to medical marijuana just makes sense for Kansas

Topeka Capital Journal

Editorial Board

February 5, 2021

The jokes write themselves. Pot for all that ails you. Marijuanicaid.

But Gov. Laura Kelly’s latest proposal in the lengthy fight to expand the Medicaid program in Kansas is serious, and sensible besides. No doubt smarting from the failure of her compromise bill last year with (now-departed-from-Legislature) Sen. Jim Denning, Kelly has joined two popular proposals in this new offering.

The specifics are simple enough. Take the basic expansion proposal from last year, which would allow more than 150,000 low-income Kansans to receive health insurance coverage through the Medicaid program. Add to it, as a funding stream, legalized medical marijuana in Kansas.

The situation isn’t complicated. At this point, 38 states and the District of Columbia have passed expansion. Twelve states, including Kansas, have not. As for medical marijuana, 36 states have approved its use. Many of those states have gone further, and legalized cannabis altogether.

Kansas is in the minority here, and for no good reason.

Polling shows wide support for both policies in the state. Medicaid expansion even passed the Senate and House a few years ago, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback. It could well be that many legislators also support medical cannabis.

So why aren’t both of these proposals already law? Politics, pure and simple. Hard-right Republicans like Brownback decided to fight expansion tooth-and-nail, mostly because it was proposed and enacted by a Democratic president. As for medical marijuana, old habits and failed war on drugs rhetoric die hard.

Unfortunately, the fact that Gov. Kelly, a Democrat who will be up for re-election next year, is making this proposal, means that few Republicans at the Statehouse will give it a fair hearing.

You’ll hear nonsensical rhetoric about how Medicaid is used by people who don’t work (in fact the majority enrolled do work — they just don’t make enough money to afford health insurance). You’ll hear overinflated fear-mongering about cannabis, as though the plant isn’t used safely by millions already in this country.

The trends are clear. Legalized marijuana — either medical or recreational — is on the way. Kansas can decide to join the trend now and establish a new revenue stream, or simply give up the money out of spite. Likewise, Medicaid expansion is here to stay. We can either cover the tens of thousands of Kansans who need it, or we can continue to reject the program over ancient grudges against Barack Obama.

The commonsense choice for Kansas is clear.