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Lawmakers: Keep marijuana away from industrial hemp

by Joe Gamm | May 1, 2019 at 5:05 a.m. | Updated May 1, 2019 at 11:12 a.m.
Tony L. Brannon, Murray State University's agriculture dean, shows hemp seeds taken from a plant Aug. 1, 2014 at the school's research farm in Murray, Kentucky.

An agricultural omnibus bill that had expanded from a state Senate bill intended to give the Missouri Department of Agriculture the ability to fine someone $500 for violations of law concerning eggs caused angst in the House chamber when a lawmaker tried to attach a medical marijuana amendment to it.

The amendment would have changed medical marijuana laws to allow counties to individually choose to allow people to grow medical marijuana on farmland.

In addition to allowing the health department to fine certain violations for eggs, House Committee Substitute Bill 133 would require that sites with saw mills be classified as agricultural property through zoning classifications; ease restrictions on the growth of industrial hemp; expand the ability of county, state and federal agencies to conduct inspections of sites used for food production or where livestock or other animals are raised; create a work group to review fees charged by the Missouri Department of Agriculture; and repeal the state's treated timber laws.

Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, said county jurisdictions should have the ability to approve who grows marijuana for medical purposes.

"Our constitutional amendment, medical marijuana, is illegal by federal law," Dogan argued. "Our voters decided they wanted to trump federal law because they think it is an unjust and stupid law."

The initiative put before the voters created a "very controlled system," David Wood, R-Versailles, argued. "It's going to be regulated by the Department of Health and Senior Services."

Dogan grilled him about whether he supported more government control over the process.

"Generally, I don't necessary support medical marijuana," Wood responded. "But, I am going to live by the constitutional amendment that the people passed."

The amendment allowed for brokers in a controlled situation, he said.

"You're opening up a whole system that's going to add another loop in this," Wood said. "How does this fit in? Are they going to be under the same controls?"

The Dogan amendment to the bill left it unclear if Health and Senior Services would be responsible for certifying who was growing the marijuana.

Dogan said he was really offering the amendment to start a conversation about what the rules are going to look like.

Recently, as it has completed draft rules, Health and Senior Services has posted them on its website.

He hoped to broaden rules, Dogan said.

"Gentlemen, we haven't even got rules defined yet under who can do what," Wood said. "Why are we trying to expand before we can even start this process?

"Whether we should or should not have medical marijuana, the voters did put in a very regulated and cautionary move into the industry," he added.

Other critics of the amendment said it would allow marijuana to be grown alongside hemp, which they had struggled to get into production in the state. The Missouri Department of Agriculture initiated a pilot program in 2018 to create industrial production of the plant.

The state exempted hemp from the controlled substances list in August and later finalized rules for the program, which is expected to become effective in July this year.

The section of the omnibus concerning industrial hemp - which would create a registration for people who sell hemp seed, similar to people who produce hemp; prohibits felons from obtaining permits; modifies fines for hemp production violations; removes acreage requirements for growers; of industrial hemp; tightens restrictions on THC (the main active ingredient of cannabis) content; and allows institutions of higher education to research hemp - includes an emergency clause, which speeds up the research factor of the proposed law.

Dogan withdrew his amendment.

Without the amendment, the law passed and will now go back to the Senate for approval.

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