Politics & Government

Kansas takes first step toward growing industrial hemp

Kansas took its first step this past week in joining 40 other states in the U.S. that are growing industrial hemp, according to a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

A law passed by the Kansas Legislature and signed by Gov. Jeff Colyer on April 20 — the unofficial holiday for hemp’s psychotropic cousin, marijuana — allowed research-based production of industrial hemp in Kansas. The production of hemp, which does not share the “high” inducing chemical compounds of marijuana, will be monitored by the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Spokeswoman Heather Lansdowne told the Lawrence Journal-World on Friday that the agriculture department submitted its proposed rules and regulations for licensing to the Department of Administration’s Division of Budget last week.

The legislation does not allow commercial production of industrial hemp in Kansas, but the agency’s economic impact statement points in that direction, saying “significant long-term enhancement of business activity is possible as an indirect result of these rules and regulations, as a successful research-based pilot program may lead to the eventual legalization of commercial hemp in Kansas.”

Hemp, which produces strong fabric for rope, various textiles and papers, was long a major crop in the United States, but was made illegal in 1970. The U.S. Congress included a pathway to hemp growing in the 2014 Farm Bill, authorizing states to run pilot programs to research its viability for commercial production.

Industrial hemp operating on a commercial scale could mean big bucks for an agricultural state like Kansas. Lansdowne told the Lawrence Journal-World that her agency is working toward making licenses available as early as the spring planting season, but the road to approval is lengthy.

The draft rules and regulations must first go through a series of governmental approvals and public comment before passing, she said.