JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Dec, 8, 2016) – A Missouri bill prefiled for the 2017 legislative session would authorize the commercial farming, production and sale of industrial hemp in the state, effectively nullifying federal prohibition of the same.
Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) filed Senate Bill 120 (SB120) on Dec. 1. The legislation would remove industrial hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances and set up a regulatory structure allowing growers to cultivate the crop in the state.
If passed into law, SB120 would reclassify hemp from an illegal substance into an agricultural product under state law. It would also expressly legalize hemp farming. Anyone with a hemp license would be able to grow and produce hemp crops subject to state regulations.
Notably, the bill addresses some concerns voiced by those who oppose the idea of a license for hemp farming on philosophical grounds by making the license “shall issue,” a legal term requiring the state to issue the license to any applicant who meets the statutory requirements. Without this section, a state department could deny applications for a myriad of reasons.
Unlike two other hemp bills filed for 2017 in Missouri, SB120 does not require growers to get federal permission to cultivate hemp in the state.
FEDERAL FARM BILL
Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”
…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.
In short, current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions only, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited. SB120 ignores federal prohibition and authorize commercial farming and production anyway.
By rejecting any need for federal approval, state legalization of hemp sets the stage to nullify the federal hemp ban in practice. With the passage SB120, Missouri would join other states – including Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Vermont. California, Massachusetts and others – that have simply ignored federal prohibition and legalized industrial hemp production within their state borders.
While prospective hemp growers would still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the state requirement for federal permission, SB120 would clear away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state.
Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2 of 2015, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. As more people engage in hemp production and the market grows within these states, more people will become emboldened creating an exponential wave, ultimately nullifying the federal ban in effect.
HUGE MARKET FOR HEMP
According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.
Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.
During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.
Passage of SB120 would represent an essential first step toward hemp freedom in Missouri.
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