TOPEKA – The Kansas House of Representatives will vote Monday on a bill authorizing the state to license growers to plant industrial hemp.

The House clearly approved in a voice vote Friday to advance the bill to final action.

“I think we’re going to pass it,” said Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, as he accepted congratulations from legislators and staff passing him outside the chamber.

The licensing body – the Kansas Department of Agriculture – is not fully embracing the bill, saying only that it supports the part calling for research at higher education institutions offering a degree in agricultural science. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement groups oppose it. A fiscal note shows it could cost about $1.5 million from the state general fund over the next two-year budget cycle.

A physician in the House, Rep. Greg Lakin, R-Wichita, told the House Friday he had recently talked to Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey, and she said the department was not ready yet and that industrial hemp was not a low-water crop.

Dove said he had not talked to McClaskey as the bill moved through committee. It came from House Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development and not through the House Agriculture Committee. The Agriculture Department’s deputy director attended sessions, and Dove assumed that official kept McClaskey informed.

Officially, the Department of Agriculture was listed as neutral on House Bill 2182.

On Friday, Heather Lansdowne, communications director for the Department of Agriculture, said they support research of industrial hemp at higher education institutions. That’s the extent of its support for the language in the bill.

“If we’re put into a position to issue licenses, we will do what the law requires of us,” Lansdowne said.

Asked about water usage, Dove said industrial hemp demands about a third of the water a crop of corn requires.

“I think that’s the foundation of what the research is for,” Lansdowne said, when asked about water use.

Under the bill, the Agriculture Department could license those who want to grow industrial hemp and could license a distributor or processer of industrial hemp. Licenses would be good for one year but could be renewed.

Industrial hemp would not be considered a controlled substance. Licensees who inadvertently process hemp containing more of the THC compound than the allowed concentration of .3 percent, would be protected from prosecution. Possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor in Kansas.

Rep. Eric Smith, R-Burlington, a deputy sheriff in Coffey County, successfully added an amendment to Dove’s bill to help ensure law enforcement knows who has an industrial hemp license. Smith said he opposes legalization of marijuana, but would support Dove’s bill.

Dove, an insurance broker, faced questions in a Friday morning House GOP caucus about some of his claims. He said farmers could produce three crops of hemp in a year, but Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Assaria, a farmer, wasn’t sure they could get more than one crop a year.

“I notice K-State is not a proponent,” said Rep. Joy Koesten, R-Leawood. Dove said Kansas State University had brought it up before, but had no funds.

“It looks like we’re jumping into this thing full blast,” said Rep. Ken Rahjes, R-Agra. “Am I reading this right?” he asked, as he noted the expected addition of 7.5 state positions.

“Yes,” Dove said.

Dove stressed the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana. He said law enforcement groups “all have the same lack of understanding.” They are just not aware that this will not cause them any headache, he said.

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