Gov. Laura Kelly signed a law recently allowing for the sale of industrial hemp in Kansas, but some hemp farmers say it won’t make much difference.
Kelly signed the Senate Substitute for House Bill 2167, which established a commercial industrial hemp program less than a year after legislation created an industrial hemp research program. Before the commercial program can go into effect, the Kansas Department of Agriculture will have to host open meetings and build a set of regulations. Those regulations must then be approved by the United States Department of Agriculture.
That process to approximately a year for the research program which kicks off this spring.
“I think the pace will stay the same for those that have been working on this for some time,” Reno County farmer PJ Sneed said. “It does provide a bigger window for farmers to get their application completed.”
Sneed is preparing to plant at Always Sunny Hemp and Bee Farm in western Reno County. He helped organize the Kansas Hemp Symposium earlier this year and has been a proponent for the crop in Kansas.
The commercial program will allow for the eventual sale of hemp for industrial uses, such as fiber, hempcrete and more. However, the bill essentially prohibits the use of Kansas-grown hemp into products for human and animal consumption, such as cannabidiol or CBD oils and more.
“I feel Kansas is once again missing out on revenue from excluding production of sales of CBD teas or vape cartridges,” Sneed said.
Kansas does not have any facilities to process hemp into fiber or construction materials at this time. With no infrastructure within the state, critics of the bill argue that the CBD market is needed for growers to get off the ground and take the time needed to build an industrial infrastructure.
CBD products currently rule the majority of the commercial hemp market.
The move to a commercial program comes from the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which altered federal law and removed industrial hemp, a low-THC cousin of the marijuana plant, from the Schedule 1 controlled substance list.
“This is the first step toward Kansas developing a plan to allow for commercial hemp production, introducing an option for diversification for Kansas farmers,” KDA Secretary Mike Beam said in a release. “We support new and innovative opportunities for agriculture growth, and this legislation allows Kansas to seek approval from USDA for advancing industrial hemp in Kansas.”
Proponents see hemp as an alternative to traditional row crops in Kansas, as it has shown resistance to drought, as well as being a tough adversary for pests and weeds.
“In recent years, Kansas farmers have faced significant challenges – including weather and trade tensions,” Kelly said in a release. “I’m committed to doing all I can to support them and provide opportunities for diversification. This program provides another tool in the toolbox for Kansas farmers.”
Under both programs, industrial hemp must test under 0.3% THC — the active drug that makes a person “high.”