The Kansas House voted Monday to endorse a fragile compromise among law enforcement, state officials and farming interests outlining a potential framework for producing, marketing and distributing hemp grown on Kansas cropland.
The 2018 federal farm bill created an opportunity for states to move beyond hemp research to begin commercial production of the plant, if the state Department of Agriculture's regulatory system was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA could reject Kansas' plan and create a program to license commercial hemp producers in Kansas.
The crop, which has wide application in textiles, paper and oils, wouldn't be allowed to test above 0.3 percent of the chemical delivering intoxicating influence of marijuana. House Bill 2173 was the byproduct of months of discussion by interest groups and legislative hearings.
"There is a very delicate balance," said Rep. Kent Thompson, R-Iola. "There's lots of fingerprints on it. We walked a pretty good tightrope on putting this bill together."
The legislation indicated the state would devote $250,000 to $1 million annually to regulate the fledgling industry. The state agriculture department the state received at least 370 applications by farmers interested in planting the alternative crop. In 2018, the Kansas Legislature approved legislation to allow producers to engage in hemp research projects.
"It is still going to be researched so that we can figure out what works best in Kansas," said Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan.
Rep. Willie Dove, a Bonner Springs Republican and leading proponent of hemp, offered a pair of amendments that were rebuffed by the House.
Rep. Eric Smith, a Burlington Republican, said he supported the bill without amendment, because tinkering with the package could compromise support for the bill by law enforcement officials. The state shouldn't do anything with the bill that would give people suspected of being in possession of marijuana an ability to undermine probable cause, he said.
"It smells like marijuana. It looks like marijuana. And he says, 'No, dude. It's hemp.' And I have no probable cause unless there are regulations in place that tell me, as a law enforcement officer, he is credentialed and can have possession of what he's in possession of. Essentially, you're legalizing marijuana because they're just going to change the word to hemp," Smith said.
Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego, said amendment of legislation in the works since December could be jeopardized when the House votes Tuesday on final action.