Industrial hemp bill faces final vote in House
JEFFERSON CITY – A bill to legalize the industrial production of hemp in Missouri will face a final vote before it will be sent to the Senate.
The bill will legalize the industrial production of hemp that contains no more than three-tenths of one percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, also found in marijuana.
“It gives farmers a lot of options, ” said Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Washington, the bill sponsor. “Industrial hemp is used in all kinds of products. Everything from paper manufacturing to food products to animal feed, construction products.”
The bill requires farmers growing hemp to register with the Department of Agriculture. The permit would be valid for three years.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture would not comment on the bill because it is still pending.
“Right now manufacturers in our state actually have to import industrial hemp from out of our state,” Curtman said.
He said by making Missouri law reflect the Federal Farm Act of 2014 will benefit farmers and manufacturers alike.
“This gives our farmers a crop that they can sell to manufacturers in Missouri and hopefully keep those dollars in Missouri, rather than being sent out of the state,” Curtman said.
A co-sponsor of the bill said the strength of hemp crops is its versatility and ability to grow it in rougher terrain.
“Most cash crops, row crops, such as soy beans have to have very fertile, flat areas of acreage, but hemp can be grown along river banks and on the edges of fields,” said Rep. Cheri Toalson-Reisch, R-Hallsville. “They can be grown almost anywhere in the state of Missouri.”
The crop’s versatility hasn’t completely translated into an understanding of what the crop is.
“There is a little confusion with people who are not up to speed on the issue, Curtman said. “Whether it’s cannabis or marijuana, which it is not in our bill. So, we just have to get over some of those obstacles when we are bringing people up to speed on what exactly industrial hemp is and what it isn’t.”
KOMU 8 News contacted many farmers, and they didn’t feel they knew enough about the crop to speak about the bill and how it could change agricultural business in Missouri.
Although there isn’t a vast knowledge about hemp in Missouri, Curtman said there is opportunity.
"It allows the people in our state to pursue greater degrees of prosperity, more economic freedom and certainly gives them a new crop they can farm and provide to manufacturers in the use of the products they’re making,” he said.
Toalson-Reisch said as of right now manufacturers of hemp in the state have to import it from elsewhere.
Curtman said legalizing the industrial production of hemp will translate to more money in Missourian’s pockets.
A similar bill was proposed last year, but died on the senate floor. Curtman said doesn’t anticipate many representatives to vote no on the bill based on discussions this year.