Industrial Hemp Pilot Program Reappears in the Missouri Legislature

Missouri senators advanced a bill Tuesday that would create a pilot program in the state to study the growth, cultivation, processing and marketing of industrial hemp in cooperation with Missouri’s Department of Agriculture. Members of the General Assembly have been working on pilot programs for the growth and research of industrial hemp for three years.

Lawmakers in the House introduced such pilot programs in 2016 and 2017 but they have never made it through the Senate. This time around, multiple senators have expressed support for the bill, believing it could lead to economic growth. Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, the bill’s sponsor, said Missouri used to be one of the world’s largest producers of hemp.

Any prospective hemp grower would need to apply for a permit and pay an application fee to farm hemp. Anyone convicted of a drug-related felony in the past five years would not qualify for this permit. Potential growers would have to farm between 10 and 40 acres of hemp plants. The bill would make allocation for 2,000 total acres of industrial hemp across the state.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, industrial hemp does not have a THC level greater than 0.3 percent. Cannabis THC levels can be higher than 20 percent. The bill would allow the Department of Agriculture to inspect a participant’s hemp crop at any time during its growth. Any hemp crop that contained a THC concentration greater than 0.3 percent would be destroyed. Sen. Munzlinger commented, “You don’t want marijuana growing close to this crop because they cross pollinate and each one will ruin the other. So, actually I guess what I got is a marijuana eradication bill.” The Senate will now need to pass the bill on a third reading before the Missouri House of Representatives can hear it.

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