Missourians would be allowed to grow, cultivate, harvest and process industrial hemp under a measure that earned final passage Thursday in the Missouri Legislature.
The plant is part of the cannabis family, but contains a negligible concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) — the intoxicating component to pot.
The proposal, sponsored by state Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, authorizes the Department of Agriculture to create a pilot program for the plant. To be classified as hemp, the plants must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC.
“Right now, we have manufacturers who currently have to import industrial hemp from out of the state, sometimes from out of the country,” Curtman said. “It’s a very hearty crop. It can grow almost anywhere.”
States across the country, as well as the federal government, have loosened rules on hemp in recent years. The product can be used in an estimated 25,000 products, according to the Congressional Research Service, including fabrics, personal care products and furniture.
Under the measure, industrial hemp would be dashed from the state’s list of controlled substances. Farmers must obtain an industrial hemp license from the Department of Agriculture to start cultivating the plant.
The proposal limits the total number of acres where hemp can be grown to 2,000. Colleges and universities would also be able to study the plant in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture.
Missouri is one of 15 states that do not allow the cultivation of industrial hemp, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The measure now heads to Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, for consideration. House members approved the legislation 133 to 6.
The House on Tuesday approved a measure to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. That measure must clear the Senate by the Legislature’s May 18 adjournment to stand a chance of becoming law this year.
There are also multiple initiatives which attempt to place a medical marijuana question on the November ballot. Backers have until Sunday to turn in enough signatures to the secretary of state.