Missourians will be allowed to grow, cultivate, harvest and process industrial hemp under new legislation passed by the General Assembly in May and signed by former Gov. Eric Greitens as he left office June 1.
Hemp is part of the cannabis family, but contains a negligible concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating component in marijuana. The new law exempts the plant from the definition of controlled substances and allows anyone who has received an industrial hemp license to produce the crop. To be classified as hemp, the plants must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC.
In the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress gave states permission to run test programs for growing and marketing industrial hemp. Until now, Missouri was one of 15 states that did not allow its cultivation. Industrial hemp can be used in an estimated 25,000 products, according to the Congressional Research Service, including fabrics, personal care products and furniture.
The new Missouri law creates an industrial hemp pilot program to be implemented by the state Department of Agriculture, which must issue a license or permit for an applicant to produce the crop. Growers must meet statutory requirements and complete a criminal background check.
During a listening session on July 18, farmers told Department of Ag officials that they see huge potential from industrial hemp but questioned the small size of the pilot program. The legislation limits the total number of farmable acres under the program to just 2,000 acres statewide. The law takes effect Aug. 28, but the department will likely take six to eight months to finalize rules governing the program.