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There's no legal weed in Kansas yet, but a new Cannabis Chamber of Commerce says that'll change soon

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While marijuana for medical purposes has yet to be legalized in Kansas, Barry Grissom, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas and chamber member, said he is optimistic that legislation will pass and the state will have a booming cannabis industry.

Kansas is one of three states that has not yet legalized medical marijuana. But, banking on the idea that legalization is inevitable, one organization is gearing up to focus on what the growth of that industry will look like.

“It (marijuana) isn't something to be feared. It's something to be regulated,” said Barry Grissom, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas and member of the Kansas Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.

“I'll use Colorado as an example,” Grissom said on Up to Date. “In 2017, total cannabis related sales in that state was $1.5 billion. What that tells me as a prosecutor is that $1.5 billion didn't go to criminals. It went to entrepreneurs who created 20,000 new jobs. Kansas should be able to do that.”

Lawmakers came close to legalizing medical cannabis in this year’s legislative session, when a bill passed in the state House but not the Senate.

Kansas legislators are set to vote on the bill again when they reconvene in early 2022. It would allow the use of cannabis in the treatment of 22 ailments, including PTSD, Alzheimer's Disease and cancer, but would prohibit smoking and vaping marijuana.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, 68% of Kansans are in favor of legalizing medicinal marijuana. Grissom said that while he expects the bill to pass, bipartisan support will be an important component.

“It's going to have to be tweaked as we go along and as we have growing pains,” said Grissom. “But I believe that if we can get this legislation passed, let's say it passes next year. I think within a year from that date, it'll be a viable industry.”

In addition to the many health benefits of medical marijuana, Grissom said, legalizing it in Kansas would decrease criminal activity, which would benefit the state.

He cited Missouri as a good example of proper regulation of medicinal marijuana and the industry’s potential. As a part of their educational outreach, he and the Kansas Cannabis Chamber of Commerce want to show legislators successful medical marijuana businesses.

“We plan on offering an opportunity for legislators to take a bus ride over to Missouri and to go to a state of the art grow facility that employs 145 people, paying them a living wage, making them viable members of their community,” Grissom said, “as well as taking them to a dispensary and showing them that these dispensaries are not the ‘head shop’ some of us recall from the ‘70s, but in fact is a very nice retail space that looks more like a jewelry store.”

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga is a news intern for KCUR 89.3.
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.