Hope for medical cannabis in Kansas remains viable in legislative session

TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) - The hope for medical cannabis in Kansas remains viable this legislative session as Wednesday, a Senate committee held the first of what will be three days of hearings on the bill. However, time is running out for lawmakers to act.

Wednesday, supporters of medical cannabis came to the Statehouse in Topeka as lawmakers push into the weeds of creating a medical marijuana program.

“You have consensus from the industry, from the patients, from everyone to make sure that we get something out there, and what you have put out there is already absolutely incredible,” said Daniel Shafton with the Kansas Cannabis Business Association.

The bill Senate lawmakers are working on is the produce of years of work and mirrors legislation passed in the House last year. It creates the regulations that would govern the cultivation, sale and use of medical cannabis.

“Patients deserve the right to have legal medical cannabis,” Dr. James McEntire told state lawmakers.

Dr. McEntire practices in Kansas and Missouri. In Missouri, he’s certified to prescribe medical cannabis, saying he’s seen the impact on patients’ lives, including disabled veteran Jonathan Lewis.

Hope for medical cannabis in Kansas remains viable in legislative session

“It helped me get off opioids when I first lost my leg,” Lewis told lawmakers in Topeka. “I have been on other drugs, and I have been clean of all those drugs for over 13-and-a-half years due to cannabis. It makes me to be able to be an actual functioning member of society.”

Under the Senate bill, more than 20 conditions would give Kansans access to the medical cannabis program with the recommendation of a doctor. Economics is another argument made in support of the bill.

“Cannabis sales overall where over $30 billion (last year) and they’re estimated to be over $62 billion by 20206,” said Sam Jones with Kansas Nature Remedies. “So, this is a growing industry. It’s growing fast.”

The Kansas Department of Revenue estimates the first year of the program would generation about $500,000 in sales tax in 2024, but that would increase to about $3 million in 2025.

Kansas Cannabis business groups say a concern is the fees businesses will need to pay in order to operate.

“Keep the fees low for not only businesses to participate, our small businesses, our family farms who already are ready to set up and be able to participate in this, and we’re not pricing our opportunities for Kansans,” saidKansas Cannabis Chamber of CommercePresident Heather Steppe.

If the bill is passed, it wouldn’t go into effect until July 2023. The state would then have until January of 2024 to develop the rules for the program.

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