What is Kansas missing by not legalizing marijuana? Lawmakers say millions of dollars and thousands of jobs
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - What is the state of Kansas missing out on by not legalizing some form of marijuana? The question comes after voters in Oklahoma reject a state question to legalize recreational marijuana last week. The state’s medical marijuana industry continues to bring in millions of dollars for the state.
Kansas is one of three states who have no form of legalization of marijuana and Fact Finder 12 wanted to know, what is Kansas missing out on?
FF12 investigators traveled across the state line to talk with Pura Cannabis Collective, one of nearly 12,000 medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma.
“Definitely we’ve seen it in our economy, in our overall state, we have seen it just boom,” said Anjelica Ruvalcava, owner of Pura Cannabis Collective, a dispensary and growery in Tulsa.
Ruvalcava said she’s surprised to see the marijuana industry booming in a very conservative state like Oklahoma, but said the state is using it to their advantage.
“It’s just incredible to see it come to light and having built a medical marijuana industry,” said Ruvalcava.
The state brings in millions of tax dollars each year from medical marijuana sales. Lawmakers in the state said that revenue goes towards education and mental health services.
“It brings in 150 million in tax revenue with the license fees on top of that,” said Scott Fetgatter, Oklahoma state house representative.
What could Kansas be missing out on by not having any form legalized? The state is almost completely surrounded by other states where marijuana can be used medically or recreationally.
“Quite frankly, Kansas folks are coming to Oklahoma, probably, and buying marijuana. That’s creating a huge legal issue because they’re buying it illegally, and they’re transporting it across state lines. It’s creating an environment where people are committing crimes simply because they want to use marijuana,” said Fetgatter.
He said he has been anti-marijuana his entire life but wanted to learn more about it since many in his district said they wanted it legalized for medical use.
“There was a moment or a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting where I had to say ‘Well, I worked to help the aerospace industry, the oil and gas industry, I helped convenience stores, car dealers, grocery stores. It would be a little bit hypocritical of me to say I’m going to work towards building a good business environment for the state of Oklahoma for all these businesses but yours because I don’t like your product,” said Fetgatter.
Kansas House Representative Jason Probst said that’s exactly what it would be for the state of Kansas, a business.
“If you open up a new industry, which it would, you’re going to create new investments, new spending and new tax revenue, and I think we’re missing out on that severely in Kansas,” said Probst.
He said from surveys obtained by state lawmakers, a majority of people want some form of marijuana passed, but it continues to die in legislation. He said he’s unsure when it could be passed in Kansas.
“I think it changes when more people get frustrated enough with their legislature. We know that polling shows that somewhere between 70-80% of Kansans want this. We know that there’s a big push for it but we have a small group of people who have the power in this building to stop it,” said Probst.
One of the most powerful lawmakers in the state, Governor Laura Kelly, has little power when it comes to pushing legislation to pass on this issue. Kelly has told 12 News several times that she believes medical marijuana is imperative.
Some of the shop owners in Oklahoma said once medical marijuana was legalized, many of their customer said it’s helping them.
“Getting off their pharmaceuticals, telling us that they’ve managed to quit drinking alcohol. We’re seeing people say that they’re just in general living a happier, better, less painful life because of these products,” said Georgia King, manager at Pura Cannabis Collective.
Right now, there are three bills in Kansas that have introduced to the state’s house and senate. Legislators said the bills will continue to be introduced.
“It’s not going away. There’s no difference between prohibition of alcohol. I’m sure that someone sat in this office when they were legalizing alcohol and had the exact same conversations we’re having on marijuana. History repeats itself, and I don’t think it’s going away any time soon,” said Fetgatter.
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