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Missouri Legislature Expands Opportunities for Industrial Hemp in the State

The Missouri General Assembly recently passed legislation to expand the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp in Missouri.  Senate Bill 133, passed on May 15, 2019, has been sent to Governor Parson’s desk for his signing.

Before we discuss the 2019 legislation, a brief overview of Missouri’s current legal landscape with respect to industrial hemp would be helpful.

In 2018, the Missouri legislature passed and the governor signed HB 2034 to provide a legal framework for the re-introduction of industrial hemp to Missouri. Among other things, HB 2034 decriminalized industrial hemp. In other words, industrial hemp (defined as Cannabis sativa L. containing no greater than 0.3% THC) was excluded from the definition of marijuana and removed from the state’s Class I drug classification.

Under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 195.010(24), industrial hemp is defined in Missouri as:

(a)  All nonseed parts and varieties of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, growing or not, that contain an average delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration that does not exceed three-tenths of one percent on a dry weight basis or the maximum concentration allowed under federal law, whichever is greater;

(b)  Any Cannabis sativa L. seed that is part of a growing crop, retained by a grower for future planting, or used for processing into or use as agricultural hemp seed;

(c)  Industrial hemp includes industrial hemp commodities and products and topical or ingestible animal and consumer products derived from industrial hemp with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than three-tenths of one percent on a dry weight basis.

Industrial hemp can be used in a wide range of products, including CBD oil, fibers, textiles, paper, construction and insulation materials, animal feed and care products, and some food and beverages. CBD and hemp extract have been used in the treatment of epilepsy.

The 2018 legislation established the Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program to be implemented by the Missouri Department of Agriculture and consistent with the 2014 federal Farm Bill. Under the pilot program, industrial hemp registration and permits would be available for growing, harvesting, cultivating, or processing industrial hemp, as well as for agricultural hemp seed production.  Under the pilot program, individual growers of industrial hemp would be able to cultivate no more than 40 acres. Statewide, no more than 2,000 acres of land could be used for cultivating industrial hemp.

While Missouri’s pilot program was being implemented, Congress changed federal law in 2018 to de-classify industrial hemp as a controlled substance and to take off the limitations that had been placed on states for growing industrial hemp only as part of pilot programs.  (Note, although it’s not the subject of this blog, those involved in the processing of industrial hemp should be aware that the federal Food & Drug Administration still has authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds that are introduced into interstate commerce and marketed with a claim of therapeutic benefit as well as for food containing CBD or THC.)

Because of the 2018 farm bill, Missouri no longer would be limited to introducing industrial hemp only within the scope of a pilot program. So, in the recent 2019 legislation, the Missouri General Assembly repealed the “Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program” and got rid of the acreage limitations on growing industrial hemp.

The terms “grower” and “handler” from the 2018 law have been replaced with the more generic term “producer,” which is a Missouri resident or entity “who grows or produces viable industrial hemp.” Producers of industrial hemp must still register with the Department of Agriculture and implement a prescribed industrial hemp monitoring program. Any person who sells agricultural hemp propagule or agricultural hemp seed in the state must obtain a permit from the department.

Under the 2019 legislation, universities studying the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp no longer will be required to obtain a registration for the production of industrial hemp. Moreover, to ensure immediate research into the effectiveness of multiple varieties of industrial hemp, the university provisions in the legislation would go into effect immediately upon the governor’s signing the bill. (The remainder of the legislation would go into effect on August 28, 2019.)

The proponents of the 2019 legislation are hopeful that the industrial hemp industry will create many economic opportunities in Missouri, including in agriculture, manufacturing and processing, and retail. Senate Bill 133 is now on Governor’s Parson’s desk for final approval. If approved, administrative rules to guide the industry will need to be finalized.

Businesses considering the industrial-hemp market need trusted legal counsel to help navigate the complex and changing legal landscape, accurately assess risk, and make sound business decisions.

If you have a hemp-related business in Missouri and have questions, contact:

  • Kansas City: Kevin Corlew | 816- 472-4600 |
  • St. Louis: Don Kelly | 314-621-7755 |
  • Columbia: Tim Gerding | 573-607-1011 |

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