Industrial hemp could open up new pastures for Kansas, said industry professionals urging lawmakers to loosen regulatory measures they believe gave a chilling effect on the business.
Sarah Stephens, president of the KS Hemp Consortium and CEO of Midwest Hemp Technology, companies focused on production and processing of hemp grown for fiber and grain, said people had a lot of misconceptions about the plant.
“It’s straight up reefer madness in there,” Stephens said.
While industrial hemp is the same species as marijuana, hemp contains 0.3% or less of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces a “high.” Hemp-derived products don’t produce the same effect as marijuana due to this low THC concentration.
In Kansas, cannabis with a percentage of THC above 0.3% is considered to be marijuana.
During a Wednesday House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Stephens was one of several Kansans who spoke in support of a proposal that would lower license and registration fees for industrial hemp growers, extend licensing and registration time frames and exempt industrial hemp processors from fingerprinting and background check requirements.
The proposal, House Bill 2168 was introduced by Republican Reps. Tory Marie Blew and Kristey Williams. The bill would also allow hemp fiber, grain and seeds to be used as food for pets, poultry and livestock.
“If we want Kansans to have an opportunity to expand an industry, if we want Kansans to try new types of crops and new innovations, then we need to really look at what types of regulatory environments we have,” Williams said, testifying in support of the bill.
Cultivation of industrial hemp in the state has been legal since 2018, but industrial hemp growers say the strict application process and high fees block many would-be manufacturers from entering the field.