It’s time to start growing hemp

May 2, 2017

Rep. Willie Dove, far center, and Rock Gagnebin, a local business owner with ag interests, discuss to a group of 50 or so farmers about the movement to grow industrial hemp in Kansas.
Credit Jason Probst / The Hutchinson News

Industrial hemp shouldn’t really be something we’re talking about in Kansas.

Yet we are, because of an archaic bureaucratic decision in the 1930s that lumped the inert plant – useful in the manufacture of a variety of products such as paper, rope and plastics – with other drugs, which made it unlawful to grow and use the plant commercially.

A change in the Farm Bill of 2014 opened the door for states to allow the plant’s production, and a bill introduced this year would give Kansas farmers another crop with which they can earn a living. While the measure passed the House, it has thus far been held up in the Senate, with some members saying it is unlikely to win approval this session. That would mean another year would pass without this sensible legislation on the books, and another year before farmers could start experimenting with a crop they desperately want in the face of falling grain prices.

The support from farmers is unquestionable. A recent gathering in Abbyville drew roughly 50 people, most of them farmers who want to see this viable crop find a place in Kansas.

“We need to do something different; growing wheat and corn we aren’t making any money,” farmer John Fischer said at the meeting. “We are importing so much of this (hemp) already from Canada and other countries, why don’t we just grow it ourselves?”

It’s absurd that this plant, which contains no hallucinogenic component, is restricted at all. It’s harmless, and it is something farmers want to try. The spirit behind the measure that outlawed it in the first place is outdated, and preventing farmers from growing a crop isn’t what government ought to be doing anyway. Such a measure protects no one from harm, and it unduly restricts the right of an industry to experiment and create products that the market may very well want.