During the busy 2018 Legislative session, one of the bills passed by the Legislature was Senate Bill 263 (SB 263), which created a program to research the use of industrial hemp in Kansas. 

The legislation enacted the "Alternative Crop Research Act," which would allow the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA), "either alone or in coordination with a state institution of higher education, to grow and cultivate industrial hemp and promote the research and development of industrial hemp, in accordance with federal law." 

During the legislative wrap-up forum held the last day of May, Sen. Dan Goddard (R-Parsons) explained to those present why this was a good thing and also stressed the fact that hemp is not the same thing as marijuana. 

Hemp is in the cannabis family with marijuana, but it does not contain enough tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, to get you "high." Research suggests your lungs would fail before your brain attains any high from smoking industrial hemp. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified all forms of cannabis, including hemp, as a Schedule I drug, making it illegal to grow in the United States. As of the 2014 US Farm Bill which allowed for states to pass their own industrial hemp legislation, 16 states had passed pro-hemp legislation to allow for the growing or cultivation of industrial hemp for commercial use and research. 

Hemp is a plant with more than 25,000 possible applications. Hemp is higher quality and more sustainable for clothing than cotton and it also offers a more eco-friendly and durable paper than what we get from trees. Hemp is also a very nutritious plant. Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritious plant-based supplements currently available on the market and hemp contains about 15 grams of protein per serving. Hemp is used in body oils and lotions as well. 

The hemp seed can be used to supplement bread, dairy products, fuel, lubricants, ink, varnish, paint, cosmetics, animal food, flour, margarines and other body products. The stalk can be used in clothing, construction materials, paper, biofuel, plastic composites and more. It is considered environmentally friendly compared to other plants because it is natural resistant to pests and does not require much water.

Under SB 263, research and development of industrial hem would include things such as analysis of industrial hemp growth including required soils, growing conditions, and harvest methods; research on seeds most suitable for Kansas; and market analysis to determine the potential for an industrial hemp market in Kansas. A pilot program would be established in Russell County and other counties determined by the KDA. 

The KDA will be required to report to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources and the House Committee on Agriculture by Jan. 14, 2019, on the process by which the KDA would allow program participants to grow and process industrial hemp in Kansas and then sell it outside of Kansas. 

The bill alters legal definitions in the state to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana.