The Missouri Senate has passed a bill to allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp.
The measure would declassify hemp from the category of Schedule I drugs, which have a high level of abuse and no accepted medical use. There had been more opposition to the legislation in previous years because of its connection to marijuana.
The bill would create an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program to study the cultivation and marketing of the product. Growers and handlers would have to obtain a permit and pass a fingerprint criminal background check.
The Department of Agriculture would oversee all growing and cultivating activity of industrial hemp, which can be used in the making of items such as clothes, food, paper, plastics, and biofuel.
Bill sponsor Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, who is a lifelong farmer says the plant will help farmer’s make the best use of their land.
“It provides an alternative crop here in Missouri, one that had been grown widely across the state prior to the 1930’s,” said Munzlinger. “It’s an important crop with many more uses now that technology has advanced.”
The Department of Agriculture would also be charged with inspecting crops, which would be destroyed if their THC levels exceeded 0.3%.
Supporters of industrial hemp say it serves as an alternative crop for farmers and is good for business. Resistance to its use has come from the legal community, specifically prosecuting attorneys.
Senator Munzlinger says hemp has very little in common with illegal cannabis products such as marijuana.
“Actually what I’ve got here is a marijuana eradication program,” said Munzlinger. “The two do not fit next to each other. Industrial hemp will bring down the THC. And if you’re going with marijuana I guess they want high THC. If THC is high in industrial hemp, then it will have to be destroyed.”
The Senate bill, which passed by a 29-3 margin Thursday, is similar to an industrial hemp proposal that approved last month in the house by 141-4 vote.