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Updated: Feb 11, 2022

There will be no weed jokes in this column. This column is serious.

This column argues that the people who’ve been elected to represent Kansans in the Legislature have a rare opportunity to do something legitimately popular, something bipartisan, something that would unite Kansans while relieving a persistent source of tension between factions who need fewer reasons to distrust each other.

One of the Legislature’s first acts, when it convenes in January, should be to legalize recreational marijuana for people over 21.

Though my leftward leanings are well known, this is not a radical socialist proposal.

On Tuesday, in a Republican stronghold two states north of us, 53% of South Dakota voters legalized recreational marijuana.

In Montana, where Thursday’s headline in the Helena Independent Record might as well have been about Kansas — “’ Trounced’: Dems lose big, GOP rakes in wins” — 57% of voters also approved recreational marijuana for adults.

Kansans don’t have statewide referendums (unless it’s for a constitutional amendment, and we’ll see one of those saying women have no constitutional right to an abortion, likely before daylight savings time begins again), so we have to rely on legislators.

And the people of South Dakota and Montana have just given Republicans in the Kansas Legislature cover to do what most Kansans want them to do anyway.

A couple of weeks ago, the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University released its annual Kansas Speaks statewide public opinion survey. Among its findings: 66.9% of respondents supported legalizing recreational marijuana for people 21 years of age so that the state could tax it.

This was the second time the Docking Institute asked that question, and support has grown a bit: In 2019, it was just over 63%.

A couple of things to consider about this poll.

“It wasn’t a straight-up question about the general population’s attitude toward legalizing recreational marijuana,” notes Brett Zollinger, the director of the Docking Institute.

“It was couched as a potential mechanism to reduce reliance on traditional taxes,” he says, explaining that the survey had just led respondents through questions about their attitudes toward either increasing or decreasing income tax, sales tax and property tax.

This should give conservative legislators even more reason to support it, because they all want lower taxes.