Many Kansas residents were excited to show up or tune in to watch legislation in action. They even had to create an overflow room for onlookers of the hearing.
Overall the room and committee seemed very receptive to the bill, several of the proponent speakers quoted Winston Churchill in saying "Perfection is the enemy of progress." urging both sides to make concessions so that we can pass this effort for the good of Kansans.
Though there were some concerns brought up by Sen Longbine that there was only one source of revenue for the state - the tax revenue. Sen Longbine was also concerned that the lack of excise tax would disincentivize counties to allow dispensaries, which could easily lead to issues of patient access. It was proponent speaker Mr. Dunkin of Kansas Cannabis Industry Associates that jested in reply by saying "We in the industry generally aren't out there asking to be taxed - however, we're willing to listen to whatever suggestions you have."
The primary concerns of the day were the exorbitant Cultivation License costs and how those would impact the ability of medium and small businesses to get into the industry, and Mrs. Steppe of the Kansas Cannabis Chamber of Commerce voiced her concerns that these costs would only end up being transferred down to the patients, limiting accessibility for financial reasons. She stated, "No one wants to raise healthcare costs, and make no mistake - this is healthcare." She also brought up concerns of non-violent cannabis offenders who are "arguably the most qualified" being left out of the industry - especially since the bill states they must seek expungement, and Kansas courts cannot expunge a federal felony, thereby leaving them locked out.
There were also concerns about the unlimited number of licenses, first brought up by Mr. Corkins of Frontier Peace. Mr. Story, VP of Greenlight echoed this concern and cited that this tactic has shown to drive down prices to where businesses have to shut down or flood the black market with product because there are simply too many growers, not enough consumers in other states. It was suggested several times that they come up with a fair number based on population and a fair method of license distribution, whether it be a points system or lottery. There should also be provisions to increase the number of licenses as the industry grows and demand sees fit. Mr. Orland Yee, President, and CEO of Softbase Inc. walked the room through the basics of how Medical cannabis is tracked and traced to ease any discomfort about the possibility of "missing product" ending up on the black market. Sen Hercher later asked Mr. Yee if our current K-Track system would integrate with the cannabis tracking system - he replied "Absolutely!".
The other repeated concern was the timeline set up by the bill. which is currently as follows:
Provisions of the bill begin July 1, 2023
Rules and regulations are required by 1/1/24.
Board of Healing Arts 9/1/23.
BP, KDHE, and ABC implementation date 1/1/24
The consensus is - it's too long! Both Mr. Daniel Shafton of the Kansas Cannabis Business Association and Mr. Mitchell President at BesaMe Wellness and Missouri Hemp Improvement Company voiced concerns that Kansans have waited long enough, and this 18-month timeline actually adds another 2 years before patients will have access to medicine due to growing and processing time of the plant material before it can be placed on a shelf. Mr. Shafton said specifically that the Kansas ABC chairwoman has already begun work and has been in contact with other medical marijuana states. Both Mr. Shafton and Mr. Mitchell suggested a 6-month timeline, getting medicine in the hands of patients in about 1 year overall. Another place the two proponents agreed was in the "pointlessness" of banning smoking or vaping medical marijuana. When Mr. Mitchell gave his testimony he put it straight - "I've seen this in bills before - it doesn't last." and cited that 80% of medical users smoke or vape their medicine. Later Sen. Faust-Goudeau asked Mr. Shafton his views on this and what other methods of use there are. He stated that he understands it's very contradictory to think of "smoking" and "health", and that he was told the bill would be a "non-starter" without the ban. Anyone that could read the room knew his next eloquently put statement was essentially saying that lawmakers can put this in the bill until they are blue in the face - but a patient is going to medicate themselves how they see fit to ease their symptoms when they get home.
All of the business proponents spoke of the benefit to ancillary businesses as well as those directly involved with the cannabis businesses.
There was a wonderful testimony by Dr. Macintyre and his friend and patient John Lewis, a veteran, amputee, and founder of Veterans Can Missouri, who gave an emotional account of how cannabis has saved the lives of many veterans, helps to reduce the 22-a-day suicide rate among veterans, as well as how medical cannabis helped him end his dependency on opiates from his surgeries and keeps his pain and PTSD managed so he can be a functioning member of society.
There was also some concern brought up by Mr. Mitchell that physicians' advisory boards in other states are not allowing physicians to prescribe medical cannabis, and that the bill's restriction on ONLY physicians being allowed to make recommendations may make medical cannabis inaccessible for the majority of Kansans. He cited one state, Pennsylvania, that had to take steps to create policies within those boards because of these restrictions. The statements suggested that there should be a widening of the healthcare providers that can recommend medicinal cannabis, which should extend to PA's, CRNAs, RN's, etc.
Overall it was a very positive day, with a lot of constructive discussions. They expect the hearing to continue tomorrow and possibly go into Friday.