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Agriculture department lays out proposed regulations for industrial hemp

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The agency charged with overseeing the resurgence of industrial hemp in Missouri has laid out the proposed rules and regulations for those looking to enter into the now-legal industry.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture is proposing a scoring system for applicants seeking to cultivate hemp, a variety of fees, growing location restrictions, and strict oversight. The regulations were published in the January 2, 2019 Missouri Register and are open to comments through February 1, 2019.

In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act strictly regulated the cultivation and sale of all cannabis varieties. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified all forms of cannabis — including hemp — as a Schedule I drug, making it illegal to grow in the United States.

In 2018, the General Assembly passed HB 2034, sponsored by Rep. Paul Curtman, legalizing an industrial hemp pilot program in Missouri — as outlined in the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill. The legislation limited production to limited to 2,000 acres statewide and requires farmers to undergo a background check, obtain a permit, and submit to random testing of the crop.

The measure put the Department of Agriculture in charge oversight of the program along with the responsibility of creating rules and regulations for the industry.

“These rules will help us create the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program and application process,” said Sami Jo Freeman, public information officer for the Missouri Department of Agriculture. “The proposed rules combined feedback from our July 18 public listening session, conversations with stakeholders and research into existing pilot programs in other states. Overall, the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program is designed to study the growth, cultivation, processing and marketing of industrial hemp.”

Determining the fees associated with hemp was also left to the department’s discretion. According to the proposed rules, a nonrefundable $100 fee must be submitted with every application — growers and handlers, alike.

Permits would be good for three years and would require a $500 registration fee whether it is for a Grower, Handler, or Agricultural Hemp Seed Production Permit. Additionally, growers would be required to pay $45 per acre planted per year, handlers processing the grain or fiber component of hemp would be charged $500 per year, and handlers processing the leaf or floral component of hemp would be charged $3,000 per year.

According to a fiscal note attached to one of the proposed regulations, the department is projecting 35 percent of handlers will be for grain processing, 25 percent for fiber processing, and 80 percent for floral processing.

With a limited number of grower permits available the Department of Agriculture is proposing a scoring system that will take into account: application for registration, applicant’s farming experience; map of land industrial hemp will be cultivated on, and applicants production, research, and marketing plan.

In the event of a tie between applicants, farming experience will be used as a tiebreaker. If not all allowed acres are account for, the department will announce an open application period.

All applicants are required to pass a background check and be willing to submit to an inspection of the crop by law enforcement or the department with or without cause.  

“Registered growers and handlers shall have no reasonable expectation of privacy from the department or law enforcement, with respect to the plot of land where agricultural hemp seeds, industrial hemp plants, or industrial hemp plant materials are located as indicated on the application for registration,” one regulation states.

The Department of Agriculture will provide information to the Missouri Highway Patrol about registered growers and handlers relating to the growing, cultivation, processing, and storage of industrial hemp at indicated locations.

Any interaction growers and handlers have with law enforcement shall be reported to the department within 48 hours by phone or within five days by writing. And theft of industrial hemp must be reported to the department and law enforcement within 48 hours by phone or within five days by writing of discovery.

There is also proposed restrictions on where hemp can be cultivated or processed.

“Planting, cultivating, storing, and/or handling industrial hemp shall not occur within two thousand (2,000) feet of any school, pre-school, or daycare. Institutions of higher learning are exempt from this section,” the rule states. “No application or site modification request shall include any plot of land that is not owned or rented by the applicant, registered grower, or registered handler.”

The Department of Agriculture expects to inspect 50 industrial hemp sites per year, spending four hours at each site, according to a fiscal note.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has laid out a projected timeline for the implementation of the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, which would enable the first growing season in 2020.

Noteworthy dates include:

June 30, 2019: Industrial Hemp Pilot Program rules become effective.

July 1, 2019: Industrial Hemp Pilot Program receives any spending authorized by the approved FY2020 budget.

August 2019: Industrial Hemp education & outreach meetings begin. The meetings will review current laws, regulations and application processes.

September 3, 2019: Industrial Hemp Pilot Program grower and handler applications available online.

October 31, 2019: Grower and handler applications approved and applicants will be notified.

November 30, 2019: Registration fees due from handlers and approved growers.