Hemp potential draws interest in Sunflower State

Douglas County farmer Scott Thellman traveled three hours, despite forecasts of snow and sleet, to be at the meeting.

And, on a cold, late February morning, he wasn’t alone. More than 300 others from all corners of Kansas and surrounding states gathered at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson—all with visions of a new source of green growing on their farms in the next year or two.

---

The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper. At one time, Kansas was among the nation’s top hemp producers, said Peter Andreone, a cannabis business attorney from Overland Park.

But the industry began to disappear in the 20th century, he said. Hemp was doomed by the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which placed an extremely high tax on marijuana and made it effectively impossible to grow industrial hemp. During World War II, the U.S. Department of Agriculture campaigned with “Hemp for Victory” and allowed farmers to grow it with a permit.

Yet by 1958 there were no U.S. hemp fields. Rigid restrictions in the Controlled Substances Act brought the industry to a halt around 1970.

“Farming hemp was outright banned,” Andreone said.

With millions of dollars of industrial hemp imported from countries like Canada, a momentum to legalize industrial hemp began to grow in the early 2000s. The biggest development happened in 2014 when the farm bill carved out a definition that separated industrial hemp from marijuana, Andreone said.