The Missouri House Agriculture Policy Committee voted Tuesday in Jefferson City to approve legislation that would create an industrial hemp pilot program in Missouri.
The bipartisan vote was 11-2.
Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee Chairman Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, the bill sponsor, tells Missourinet he’s optimistic it will pass.
“I think it would be a new agricultural product that Missouri can raise and one that they used to raise here in Missouri, you know, to help the war effort,” Munzlinger says.
He’s referring to World War II.
Both chambers have already approved industrial hemp bills, but only the House version contained language that the Missouri Highway Patrol “may perform aerial surveillance” to ensure that marijuana plants are not being cultivated near industrial hemp.
The House Ag Policy Committee, chaired by State Rep. Jay Houghton, R-Martinsburg, approved an amendment adding that provision on Tuesday, a provision that Munzlinger supports.
Munzlinger’s bill now heads to the House Rules Committee, before heading to the House floor.
Munzlinger says State Rep. Paul Curtman’s industrial hemp bill should be ready to go to the Missouri Senate floor soon.
Proponents and opponents of the legislation testified on Tuesday.
A southern Missouri food/health company called “Beyond Organics” supports the bill.
Lobbyist Brian Grace tells lawmakers that Chairman Munzlinger’s bill allows Missouri to capitalize on the ag component of hemp.
“I can go down the street right now to a grocery store and I can buy granola bars or protein powders or lotions that contain hemp,” Grace testifies. “None of that hemp is being grown in Missouri so Missouri farmers are missing out on that profit.”
While Grace testifies the bill is not a “steppingstone to legalizing marijuana,” retired Missouri state trooper Ed Moses tells the committee there have been shootings and “other criminal behavior” in Kentucky hemp fields.
Munzlinger’s bill would allow those licensed by the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) to grow, cultivate and market industrial hemp.
He tells State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, that applicants would undergo a fingerprint criminal history background check, under the bill.
“With marijuana out there and other things, I don’t know,” Munzlinger tells Lavender.
“Yeah, and I’m ok for the checking and perhaps paying a fee to be able to grow it,” Lavender responds.
Representative Lavender says she’s still disappointed that background checks are required to grow what she calls an ag product.
Under Munzlinger’s bill, permits could not be issued to anyone found guilty of any state or federal felony offense involving a controlled substance in the past five years.
Curtman, R-Pacific, the House sponsor of industrial hemp, says the legislation aims to “keep Missouri economic development dollars in Missouri.”
Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and Missouri Senate Ag Committee Chairman Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, which was recorded on April 10, 2018 at the Statehouse in Jefferson City: