For the first time in Sunflower State history, a bill to legalize medical marijuana passed in the Kansas House in May. Behind the effort: a locally grown coalition of cannabis advocates.
The Kansas Cannabis Coalition formed in summer 2020, composed of about 50 individuals who have shown leadership in the cannabis industry, said Heather Steppe, who co-founded KC Hemp Co. with her husband, Kyle, in Overland Park — the duo and their growing household quickly earning the moniker of “CBD Modern Family.”
“[The coalition] worked directly with lawmakers in the 2021 legislative session to pass legislation on medical marijuana,” Steppe said. “It looked like it was all coming together — until the last day of session. The Senate did not want to take it up in the last 12 hours of the session, so they postponed it until next year.”
Click here to learn more about the Kansas Cannabis Coalition.
Feeling confident that the bill will pass through the Senate in the 2022 legislative session, Steppe and about a dozen other members of the coalition decided to form the Kansas Cannabis Chamber of Commerce in July, she said.
“We did that because we really want to lay the foundation and set up the framework for this industry in Kansas,” explained Steppe, who serves as the president of the Kansas cannabis chamber. (Kyle Steppe serves as the organization’s membership director.) “What we see all too often in other states is that there is no foundation, which can cause an unsustainable industry.
“We even saw that a bit with Missouri’s rollout,” she continued. “There were lawsuits pending because of the caps that were imposed and different pieces of legislation that were passed.”
To inform community members and business leaders about the potential future of cannabis in Kansas, the cannabis chamber is planning a virtual “State of the State” event 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22.
“So that’ll include: myself giving a brief overview of the chamber and then one of our government affairs committee members, George Hanna,” Steppe noted. “[George] is going to break down what happened last session, where we’re at right now, what we need to work on and where we need help.”
Click here to register for the Kansas Cannabis Chamber of Commerce’s State of the State.
For the rest of 2021, the chamber plans to host other webinars on starting a business; how cryptocurrency plays a major role in the cannabis ecosystem; specific laws and regulations to be acquainted with and more, Steppe said.
The chamber is also set to organize a live event in November for interested community members to learn more and network with industry professionals.
“Owning a business in the cannabis space is unlike any other,” Steppe said. “You’re roadblocked with banks; you’re roadblocked with social media, with marketing. … What we’re trying to do is give an inside look into these nuances, so that when people are ready to start that business, they can hit the ground running.”
Although Steppe is located in Overland Park, the members of the coalition and chamber can be found throughout the state of Kansas. The grassroots efforts even have a national presence with the addition of former U.S. attorney Barry Grissom to the coalition’s advisory board, she noted.
“This spans the whole state; legalization is a bipartisan issue,” Steppe said. “We are ready, and the state of Kansas is ready, to see this pass. We are all doing this for free because we love it, believe in it and want to provide the infrastructure to future businesses.”
Steppe and other members in the chamber or coalition are eager to talk to people who are on the fence about or even opposed to cannabis legislation, she said.
“Those who are totally against it are the ones I want to reach out to the most,” Steppe shared. “KC Hemp Co. was one of the first [CBD] stores on the Kansas side of the metro, and education has been a key to our business for a long time. It is insanely successful to sit down one-on-one with a person. And educating and opening the eyes of these lawmakers is what we need to do and focus on going into the next session.”Click here to read about KC Hemp Co.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.