Some polls show that a majority of Missouri residents support the legalization of marijuana in the state.
But what about hemp?
"If you're trying to get high off it...it's not a good idea," John Payne, executive director of advocacy group Show-Me Cannabis Regulation tells Daily RFT, emphasizing that this bill is not about smoking cannabis.
What is the purpose of legalizing the hemp industry in Missouri?
Senate Bill 358 would exempt "industrial hemp" -- defined as "cannabis sativa L. containing no greater than one percent THC" -- from the definition of marijuana and the list of controlled substances.
In other words, while marijuana remains an illegal substance, there's no reason that hemp, a cannabis product that isn't used as a drug and has basically no THC, should be considered an outlawed substance.
"It's important to remind people that hemp used to be one of the most important cash crops in the state," says Payne. [corrected]
Like marijuana, hemp is illegal at the federal level -- and would in that way remain illegal even if Missouri passed this law. It would at least create similar state-federal conflicts like the challenges that now exist in states that have legalized marijuana.
"It's really in some way symbolic," says Payne, who testified in favor of the bill at a hearing on Tuesday. He says there were very few opponents and is confident that the bill will move forward out of committee.
Continue for more details on the hemp bill and the full draft legislation.
You can't get high off of hemp, but it does have a diverse range of other uses including for textiles, food, oil and much more. (Westword, RFT's sister paper in Denver has a recent cover story on hemp, which, along with marijuana, is now legal in Colorado).
Meanwhile, Kentucky legislators have had success this year with their bill to license hemp farmers, advocates in Missouri point out.
The bill here, from Democratic State Senator Jason Holsman, says:
In any case where the defendant claims that the substance possessed was industrial hemp and not a controlled substance the burden of proof shall be on the defendant to prove that the substance was industrial hemp and not a controlled substance.
And the bill also specifies that it would not be legal for anyone who has been convicted of a drug-related crime to cultivate hemp.
Even if hemp can at times be confused for pot, it doesn't make a lot of sense for it to be outlawed, says Payne.
This bill is getting a lot less attention than proposals to decriminalize marijuana in the state -- and is also less controversial.
Payne says, "This does not split as much along the partisan divide as the question of legalization or decriminalization."
Here's the proposed bill.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.