KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cannabis supporters call it the “green rush” as interest among farmers to plant hemp, which is a close cousin of marijuana, continues to increase.
Several thousand people showed up to a packed KCI Expo Center to learn about growing and harvesting cannabis and hemp.
“I’m very interested in having a distributorship and growing some medical marijuana and some hemp,” said Todd Leonard, who owns a bar in St. Joesph, Missouri.
Leonard said he wants to help sick people, whose symptoms could be mitigated by medical marijuuana.
"I see a lot of old people and I don’t want to see them suffer,” he said.
Leonard attended the Cannabis Education & Business Start Up event to network with others of a similar mind.
“I know I kind of want to get in with a small business and kind of make it the Amazon of whatever weed,” said Aspen Sennewald, a student at Mizzou.
Sennewald hopes to get her foot in the door of a growing industry — no pun intended.
"It’s really hard to enter an industry that is so taboo and awkward to talk about," Sennewald said.
During a recent legislative session, both Missouri and Kansas passed hemp laws. Missouri has a 2,000-acre cap, but there's no cap in Kansas.
"There’s hundreds of millions of dollars being deployed in Kansas right now," said Mike Arnold, a large-scale cannabis operator originally from Parkville, Missouri, who now lives in Oregon.
Arnold said about 20 acres can produce more than $800,000 in revenue.
"If they’re not growing cannabis or hemp in their field, their neighbors are getting very wealthy," Arnold said.
Missouri voters took it a step further last month by approving Amendment 2, which will legalize medical marijuana in the state and allow registered caregivers to grow up to six plants. It imposes a 4-percent tax on marijuana sales.
Medical marijuana remains illegal in Kansas, but the state's governor-elect, Laura Kelly, said she is in favor of some form of medical marijuana.
"I think there’s a little more influence from the governor of the legislature taking up cannabis reform a priority," said Eapen Thampy, a marijuana and hemp lobbyist.
Event organizers plan more of these learning events as interest continues to build in the region.