Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, seems an unlikely candidate to lead the charge for hemp legalization in Kansas, but the conservative Christian says that’s because people misunderstand that there’s a difference between hemp and marijuana.
“Hemp has nothing to do with marijuana,” Dove said.
Marijuana and hemp are both part of the cannabis species. That’s where their similarities end. Marijuana can get users high. Industrial hemp contains less than .3 percent of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Hemp can’t get you high, but Dove believes it could be the source of an economic boom in Kansas, if only its cultivation were legal. Before the Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, industrial hemp was used in a variety of products including automobiles, body care products, construction, foods and plastics. Its uses waned when hemp was included as a Schedule I drug. Federal legislation loosened restrictions on industrial hemp,
Dove’s interest in industrial hemp grew from a discussion about Kansas’ economics.
“This could be the economic future of Kansas,” Dove says. “We have the interest. We have the land.”
Thirty-four states have adopted legislation allowing the growth and use of industrial hemp, but the Sunflower State remains a holdout.
“Kansas cannot continue to be behind everyone else in the world in the production of agricultural products,” Dove says.
Dove introduced legislation that would allow Kansas farmers to cultivate industrial hemp. He’s hopeful it will become law. He introduced similar legislation in the past, and it died. But it raised awareness that may be pay dividends this session.
“We see specialty crops as a value-added effort for the small individual farmer, and an opportunity to develop products manufactured and developed in Kansas,” Janae Talcott, the director of the Russell County Economic Development and Convention & Visitors Bureau, said.
Kansas Farm Bureau is the state’s largest general farm organization. Ryan Flickner, a lobbyist for the organization, said industrialized hemp may ease Kansas’ future water needs in addition to revving the state’s economic interests.
“It is our understanding that industrial hemp may be a crop that provides producers with a reasonable economic income and uses less water and inputs than some of the current commercial crops grown in Kansas,” Flickner wrote.
Hemp is growing in Kansas, despite laws that limit its industrial use. It can be found growing along railroad tracks, suggesting it’s passing though and needs little assistance from man to flourish.
Bob Hall, a Hutchinson man, says he sees it growing along country roads.
“It’s everywhere. It’s all over,” he said.
Dove would like to see the Kansas economy put it to good use.
“That’s what we’re commanded to do is use what God has given us to survive,” Dove says.