While still in its infancy, if voted into action, Kansas House Bill 2182 would create the Kansas Industry Growth Act, authorizing and promoting research, business development/support activities, public-private cooperation and educational activities to promote the growth of an industrial hemp cultivating, processing and distributing industry throughout Kansas.

According to the bill, industrial hemp would be all varieties of the plant Cannabis sativa, which contains an extremely low amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by weight.

THC is the chemical in cannabis known for providing users with a drug-induced "high," and is found more prevalently in Cannabis indica – a different plant than industrial hemp.

As an industrial product, hemp could be valuable, as it can be used to produce a large variety of products, as well as oils and even fuels.

In a Feb. 7 fiscal note addressed to Chairperson of the Kansas House Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Les Mason, Kansas Director of the Budget Shawn Sullivan said that, were the bill passed, the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) would be authorized to adopt the rules and regulations necessary for efficient administration, oversight and enforcement of the Kansas Industry Growth Act.

The Secretary of the KDA would also be authorized to adopt rules and regulations concerning licensure of persons who process or distribute industrial hemp, Sullivan said, including who would or would not be eligible for such a license.

Revenue from license fees and interest earned on that revenue would then be deposited into the Agricultural Industry Growth Program Fund, where Sullivan said it would be used exclusively for the administration and regulation of industrial hemp.

Any state university that offers degree programs in agricultural science would be also allowed to participate in research for industrial hemp.

The provisions of HB 2182 would only apply to industrial hemp (as defined by the bill). Sullivan said any person convicted of violating any provisions of the new act would be guilty of a class C misdemeanor.

Citing the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Sullivan said HB 2182 would also result in additional State General Fund expenditures of $816,153 in FY 2018 and $628,168 in FY 2019.

Currently, the possession of any product containing tetrahydrocannabinol is illegal under Kansas law. Sullivan said the proposed bill would only legalize the presence of THC at 0.3 percent or lower in certain products. 

According to the KBI, Sullivan said the bill would provide no restriction on who may apply for or be granted a license under the act, as well as create the potential for possession of an industrial hemp product to be stated as a defense to the possession of illegal marijuana.

The only method for determining whether the product in question is legal in THC content would be through the submission of a sample to a forensic laboratory for analysis or quantitation.

For that reason, Sullivan said it is estimated that HB 2182 could require the KBI forensic science laboratory to perform additional examinations on approximately 5,000 items per year.

Each examination would take an estimated three hours to perform, Sullivan said, and to conduct testing would require additional staff with additional salaries from the state.

In addition, Sullivan said that the KBI does not currently have validated methods for THC quantitation or plant DNA testing. For that reason, new methods would need to be developed and special startup equipment and supplies would need to be purchased.

Sullivan said that the enacting of HB 2182 would mean an increase in its fee fund revenues because of the $500 fee for each research and grower license, as well each $100 fee for processor licenses.

Because the KDA cannot determine how many licenses it might issue, Sullivan said exact estimates of what the actual fiscal effect might be is unclear.

"The Kansas Board of Regents indicates that passage of the bill would have a fiscal effect on Kansas postsecondary educational institutions involved with industrial hemp research," Sullivan wrote, "...however because the bill creates a revenue generating fund to cover the costs of the program, it does not expect to require additional amounts from the State General Fund.

Having connected with The Kansan via phone on Friday, Kansas District 74 State Representative Don Schroeder said committees will be meeting next week, but will not be doing so again for awhile after that – so unless immediate progress is made on the bill, it will likely be set aside for the time being.

Nonetheless, Schroeder said there is a hearing for HB 2182 scheduled for Feb. 15.

The purpose of the hemp bill, according to Schroeder, is to encourage the development of business around agricultural hemp and hemp fiber, as it could be used to make a number of things.

While the bill is scheduled for a hearing, Schroeder said that does not mean it will make its way out of committee. Before it could be enacted, there would need to be a long process of gathering input and studying it as a possibility.

Although the prices of some agricultural crops are down, Schroeder said an industry around hemp would have to be built up over time, and the process of Kansas producing hemp as a viable industry could take considerable time.