TOPEKA — Kansas is a Top-10 agricultural producing state, so implementing a development program for an increasingly popular plant made sense to the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA).
According to hempbizjournal.com, in 2017, the U.S. commercial hemp industry grew 16 percent and made $820 million in sales, with those numbers expected to surpass $1 billion in 2019. Hemp can be used to make a variety of products such as textiles, clothing, paper, food, and biofuel.
HB 2173, which allows the Agriculture Department to develop a state plan within the minimum standards set by federal law for a commercial hemp program, was introduced on Feb. 7. It was referred to the Committee on Agriculture and passed on Tuesday, March 26, with 119 in favor and five in opposition.
When the committee met to discuss HB 2173, there were no opponents. Zack Pistora of Kansas Sierra Club spoke in favor of the bill. The Sierra Club, according to its website, is a non-profit, member-supported, public interest organization that promotes conservation of the natural Kansas environment.
“Industrial hemp has a variety of uses and can be highly profitable for farmers who may already be struggling financially with growing current commodities,” Pistora said.
Commercial hemp production was not allowed in Kansas until December 2018 when Congress passed a farm bill permitting all states to establish plans for commercial production of hemp.
There are two paths that allow for the development of commercial hemp: developing a state plan and submitting it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval or waiting until the USDA develops a national standard that is effective in each state.
In April 2018, SB 263 allowed for the creation of a program for research on the use of industrial hemp. It allows for the Food and Drug Administration to, either alone or with a state college or university, grow and cultivate industrial hemp to promote the research and development of industrial hemp, in accordance with federal law. The bill also allows people to participate in the research program under KDA authority.
March 1 was the official deadline that the KDA would accept applications for growers wanting to contribute to the state’s research program.
Before the farm bill passed, Kansas was only allowed to establish a research program for hemp growing that complied with federal laws.
According to the HB 2173 fiscal note, industrial hemp, when cultivated, produced, possessed or used for activities authorized by the Alternative Crop Act, would be excluded from the definition of “marijuana” contained in current law and would be excluded from the list of Schedule I controlled substances.
The KDA estimates that expenditures related to the enactment of HB 2173 would amount to $109,000, including $63,000 for salaries and wages, $30,000 for lab samples and support, and $16,000 for administrative support and overhead.
HB 2173 will go into effect on July 1, 2019.
Olivia Schmidt is a University of Kansas senior from Lawrence studying journalism.