Legislator Wants Missouri To Allow Industrial Hemp Cultivation

Photo Credit: Steve Helber

State Sen. Brian Munzlinger is hoping that in the 2018 legislative session, Missouri will join about 38 other states in allowing industrial hemp cultivation.

The Republican lawmaker from Williamstown is sponsoring Senate Bill 547, which would create an industrial hemp pilot program under the Missouri Department of Agriculture to study the growth, cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp. Production of industrial hemp, which comes from the cannabis plant, has been illegal in the U.S. since 1937. It was temporarily allowed during World War II to aid the war effort.

“Missouri used to be a leader in industrial hemp,” Munzlinger said . “This is a good alternative crop for farmers that could add to their bottom line. The great thing about the plant is it doesn’t need fertilizer or herbicides and it grows well in poor soil.”

The Lewis County farmer has sponsored similar industrial hemp bills since 2015.

As part of Munzlinger’s ?current bill, industrial hemp would be exempt from the federal Comprehensive Drug Control Act, which categorizes marijuana as Schedule 1 drug.

Under SB 547, growers and handlers of the plant and its seed would require a renewable three-year registration or permit from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. No registration or permit would be issued to someone found guilty within the past five years of a felony offense regarding a controlled substance.

In addition, the bill would allow the Department of Agriculture to inspect any industrial hemp crop during its growth phase. If the crop contains an average THC concentration above 0.3 percent, the maximum amount allowed under federal law, the department could seize the crop.

The main difference between his 2017 and 2018 bills, Munzlinger said, is the inclusion of a higher education institution, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, to conduct research on industrial hemp.

“We need to allow the production and processing of industrial hemp,” Munzlinger said. “Kentucky is the state that has done the most research on this, and with technology advancements to process it, there are so many products and uses for hemp.”

Hemp is valued for its oil and strong fiber, and a wide variety of items are made from it, including cosmetics, construction and insulation materials, plastics, clothing, and paper. A 2017 report by Hemp Business Journal and Vote Hemp said U.S. consumers spent $688 million on hemp products in 2016.

Munzlinger’s bill received a first reading Jan. 3, the first day of the legislative session. The bill received a second reading Monday and was referred to the Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee. Munzlinger is chairman of the committee.

The legislator said he doesn’t anticipate much challenge in getting the bill passed.

“(Other legislators and I) were talking about how we can’t believe we might allow voters to vote on medical marijuana this year before we legalize industrial hemp,” he said. “We’ve been close to passing a bill on industrial hemp in the past, and hopefully this will be the year we do it.”

In 2016, the Missouri House voted 123-29 to pass the legislation to legalize the growing of industrial hemp as a raw material for manufacturing. However, the bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Union, didn’t receive any action in the Senate before the end of the legislative year.