Lawmakers reconsider regulations for hemp growers

Julie Smith/News Tribune photo: 
Babu Valliyodan, assistant professor of plant molecular biology who is studying the growth and use of industrial hemp, explains the varieties growing at Lincoln University's Carver Farm on Sept. 21, 2022.
Julie Smith/News Tribune photo: Babu Valliyodan, assistant professor of plant molecular biology who is studying the growth and use of industrial hemp, explains the varieties growing at Lincoln University's Carver Farm on Sept. 21, 2022.

A Missouri lawmaker wants to do away with statutory regulations for the hemp extract industry in Missouri -- which may be obsolete, he said.

On Thursday morning, Rep. Rick Francis, a Perryville Republican, defended his bill (House Bill 202) in front of the House Agriculture Policy Committee.

The committee considered two bills, which would change regulations on industrial hemp products.

In 2018, the FDA approved an oral treatment for seizures that used CBD extract, a byproduct of the hemp plant. The Missouri Hemp Extract Registration Program, a licensing program for those who use CBD extract was created as a result of this.

Francis said the number of farmers trying to grow hemp extract has declined. He said Amendment 3 and earlier medical marijuana legislation signaled the end of the program.

"There were 37 registrants, or farmers, trying to grow CBD oil. ... We had 18 in 2020 and at the end of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, at this time, there (are) no registrants in the state," Francis said. "For all intents and purposes, the Hemp Extract Registration Program is obsolete."

Ben Terrell, the legislative liaison for the Department of Health and Senior Services, said during the hearing that there were no new registrants to the program on the patient side, either.

House Bills 202 and 644, both proposed by Francis, pertain to regulations in the industrial hemp industry. HB 202 would repeal the Industrial Hemp Regulatory Program and HB 644 would roll back regulations on the cultivation of hemp plants for medical treatment.

The Industrial Hemp Regulatory Program, overseen by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, requires registrants to pay a $750 fee. Repealing the program with HB 202 would turn oversight back to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and remove that fee, a witness from the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) said.

"The department has determined the need to close the program due to budgetary constraints," said Danyelle High, an MDA legislative director. "Due to the continued decline of registered operations, those outweigh the benefits to our Missouri hemp industry. ... We believe the USDA and the Missouri Department of Agriculture regulate to the same standard. The only real difference is the $750 registration fee that we require at the state level."

Terrell testified in favor of HB 644, which would no longer require DHSS oversight when purchasing medical hemp products.

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