JEFFERSON CITY, MO. (Dec. 5, 2015) – This week, a bill was prefiled in the Missouri State Senate to authorize the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in the state, effectively nullifying in practice the unconstitutional federal prohibition on the same.
Prefiled on Dec. 1 for introduction during the 2016 legislative session by Sen. Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown), Senate Bill 584 (SB584) sets up the framework to effectuate a commercial hemp farming program in the state. It reads, in part:
Industrial hemp shall be an agricultural product that is subject to regulation by the department of agriculture, including compliance with an industrial hemp plant monitoring system. Any grower and handler of industrial hemp shall obtain a license from the department. Growers and handlers engaged in the production of agricultural hemp seed shall also have an agricultural hemp seed production permit.
In order to operate an industrial hemp field lawfully under SB584, farmers would be required to have their crops inspected by regulators to insure they do “not exceed three-tenths of one percent on a dry weight basis.” Farmer would also be required to pay “reasonable fees as determined by the department [of agriculture] for the purpose of carrying out the duties of the department.”
Since the enactment of the unconstitutional federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has essentially prevented the production of hemp within the United States. While the agency claims that growing is not prohibited, it also stipulates that growing can only be done with a DEA-issued license.
BEYOND FEDERAL PERMISSION
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 oilseed 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 is still prohibited. The Missouri bill rejects this prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.
By rejecting any need for federal approval, SB584 would set the stage to nullify this federal ban in practice. Passage would join Missouri with other states – including Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Connecticut, Maine, North Dakota and Vermont – that have passed similar measures.
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, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. Laws passed last year in Tennessee and South Carolina, and this year in North Dakota, Connecticut and Maine, all legalize hemp even though the federal government considers this plant illegal.
“What this gets down to is the power of the people,” said Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center. “When enough people tell the feds to pound sand, there’s not much D.C. can do to continue their unconstitutional prohibition on this productive plant.”
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!”.
SB584 is an essential first step toward hemp freedom in the state of Missouri. It has yet to be assigned to a committee at the present moment, and will be considered during the next legislative year.