Legislation that would legalize the growth of industrial hemp in Missouri was approved Monday by a state Senate committee in Jefferson City.

State Rep. Paul Curtman (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The Missouri Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee voted 5-1 to approve State Rep. Paul Curtman’s bill, which would legalize the growth of industrial hemp and create a program for its licensure and monitoring.

Curtman (R-Union) tells the committee the bill creates an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program.

“Under the federal Farm Act of 2014, the federal government has authorized the department, the states to authorize their departments of agriculture or their departments of education to allow the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp under pilot programs for the purposes of research,” Curtman testifies.

Curtman’s bill would allow those licensed by the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) to “grow, harvest and cultivate” industrial hemp.

Supporters predict that multiple processing plants will be built in Missouri, if the bill passes.

Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee Chairman Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown) voted for the bill.

“I’ve always been a firm believer and backer of value-added,” Munzlinger says. “Anything we can do in Missouri that we can add value to is by far better, whether it’s through agricultural crops or anything else.”

Munzlinger has traveled to Kentucky, which is a leader in industrial hemp production.

Under the Curtman bill, applicants must complete a fingerprint criminal history background check.

Curtman’s bill says that a license or permit cannot be issued to someone who has been convicted of a felony within ten years, nor to anyone who has been convicted at any time of a state or federal felony of possession or distribution of a controlled substance.

While Missouri Farm Bureau State Legislative Affairs Director B.J. Tanksley testified against the bill on Monday, he emphasizes that they’re not opposed to industrial hemp. He says the program must fall in line with federal law.

Tanksley tells senators that Missouri Farm Bureau members adopted this policy.

Tanksley also expresses concerns with the bill’s fiscal note. Chairman Munzlinger (R) and State Sen. Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City) grilled Tanksley on the group’s position.

State Sen. Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby) cast the lone no vote, saying he wants stronger language and that he doesn’t want to put farmers at risk in abiding by the farm bill.

Curtman and bill supporters say 31 other states allow industrial hemp.

The Midwest Industrial Hemp Association says Curtman’s bill will help rural Missouri communities.

The association’s Hyatt Bangert testified Monday before the committee, saying they’ve been working on this issue for two years.

“It’s really an economic development bill in the disguise of an agricultural bill, because we see that this could be a multi-billion dollar business long-term, it has that kind of potential,” says Bangert.

Bangert is from St. Charles.

The Curtman bill now heads to the full Missouri Senate. The House voted to approve the bill earlier this month, on a 126-26 vote.