The Missouri Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee voted 4-1 on Monday afternoon in Jefferson City to approve industrial hemp legislation from veteran State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific.

State Rep. Paul Curtman speaks on the House floor in April 2017 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

State Sen. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, cast the lone no vote. The bill now heads to the Senate floor.

Curtman testifies his legislation is an opportunity to introduce “a brand-new economic footprint” to Missouri.

“And doing everything we can to free our farmers, so that way they can grow a product that is already in the market right now,” Curtman says.

His bill would create a pilot program to allow those licensed by the state Department of Agriculture (MDA) to grow, cultivate and market industrial hemp.

“We certainly don’t want Missouri, the Show-Me State, to be the last state in the nation to allow our people to engage in this market and keep Missouri economic development dollars in Missouri,” says Curtman.

The Missouri House approved Curtman’s bill in February by a 141-4 vote.

While the Senate has already approved State Sen. Brian Munzlinger’s, R-Williamstown, industrial hemp legislation, it could be merged with Curtman’s bill.

The main difference between the two is that Curtman’s bill says the Missouri State Highway Patrol “may perform aerial surveillance” to ensure that marijuana plants are not being cultivated near industrial hemp.

That provision was an amendment from State Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville, that was approved by the House.

The marijuana issue came up several times during Monday’s hearing.

A retired Missouri state trooper warns that law enforcement officers won’t be able to tell the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana.

Ed Moses, who worked for the Patrol for 35 years and served part of that time as an undercover officer, traveled to the Missouri Capitol to testify against Curtman’s industrial hemp bill.

“This would automatically legalize marijuana,” Moses testifies. “We would lose probable cause by law enforcement (officers), because we’d no longer be able to tell the difference,” Moses testifies.

Moses tells senators he believes marijuana supporters are behind the industrial hemp efforts, behind the scenes.

Three others also testified against the bill, including Lincoln University student Cheyenne Savage. She worries it will impact law enforcement efforts.

But Munzlinger and Curtman disagree. They say cross-pollination would destroy both farmers’ and drug dealers’ crops.

Munzlinger, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, tells Missourinet that Curtman’s legislation is a “drug eradication bill.”

“You know it’s been a long, hard battle just getting to people to understand exactly what industrial hemp is and I think we actually saw some of that today where they’re (opponents) trying to compare it to a drug crop and we’re doing an agricultural crop here,” says Munzlinger.

Under both versions of the bill, applicants would undergo a fingerprint criminal history background check.

Chairman Munzlinger, who represents 14 counties in northeast and north central Missouri, says there are currently 19 states producing industrial hemp.

Munzlinger has described hemp as “one of the oldest crops known to man.

The Midwest Hemp Association testified for Curtman’s bill on Monday.

Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Brian Munzlinger, which was recorded on March 26, 2018 at the Statehouse in Jefferson City: