JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (May 5, 2015) - Yesterday, an important Missouri Senate committee approved a bill to authorize the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in the state, effectively blocking the federal prohibition on the same. Previously approved by the House, it now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Introduced by Rep. Paul Curtman, House Bill 830 (HB830) not only designates industrial hemp as an agricultural crop, it also includes all the structural framework needed to get the hemp market up and running in the state.
Last month it passed the House with a vote of 104-41. Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources gave it a “Do Pass” recommendation with minor technical amendments.
If passed into law, hemp would be reclassified from an illegal product into an agricultural one under state law. It would also expressly legalize the commerce of hemp in the state, and not just the growth for research purposes as it being done in some states. And anyone with a hemp license would be able to grow and produce hemp crops as long as they are farming on a minimum of 2.5 acres.
Notably, the bill does address some concerns of people who oppose the idea of a license for hemp farming on philosophical grounds by making the license “shall issue,” which is a legal term requiring the state to issue the license to people. Without this section, a state department could deny applications for a myriad of reasons.
Passage into law will ensure that Missouri will join other states – including Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, and Vermont – that have already passed similar measures.
Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively thwarting federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group who hopes to plant 25 acres this spring.
Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is at least $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.
During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.
But, since the enactment of the deplorable federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has prevented the production of hemp within the United States. Many hemp supporters feel that the DEA has been used as an “attack dog” of sorts to prevent competition with major industries where American-grown hemp products would create serious market competition: Cotton, Paper/Lumber, Oil, and others.
Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The new “hemp amendment”
"…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law."
HB830 now moves to the full Senate, where it will be available for debate and vote in the near future. Since it was amended in committee, should the Senate pass the bill, it will go back to the House for concurrence before being sent to the Governor.
For Missouri: Call your state senator. Strongly, but respectfully urge them to support and cosponsor HB830. A phone call has 10x the impact of an email, so make sure to take a few minutes to call. Find their information here: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator