HAYSVILLE, Kan. — More than 60 law enforcement officials from across Kansas packed a small room at the John C. Pair Horticultural Center recently to prep themselves for questions they may soon be getting about industrial hemp in the state.
Kansas State University researchers are growing and testing their first crops of industrial hemp at research centers in Haysville, Olathe and Colby. As an industrial product, hemp can be grown for grain, fiber or CBD (cannabidiol) oil.
“We are on the research side, but these people are on the enforcement side,” said Jason Griffin, director of the John C. Pair Horticulture Center. “They’re going to encounter this crop in their daily business, and we want to make sure that they are armed with as much information as possible.”
In April 2018, the Kansas Department of Agriculture approved the production of hemp through the Alternative Crop Research Act, and officials from that agency have been conducting education on hemp since that time.
“We’ve physically reached out to 1,400 individuals already,” said Braden Hoch, an industrial hemp specialist with KDA. “With this being a new crop in Kansas, there is a lot of education and outreach needed from all sides.”
Hoch noted that law enforcement will be tasked with knowing the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana – which is not a legal product in Kansas. The recent workshop also helped to educate law enforcement officials on related products, such as CBD, which Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer essentially legalized in 2018 by exempting it from the definition of marijuana.
New rules and regulations will require those who work with hemp to be licensed in order to transport the product.
“This educational event is going to be a building block for those in law enforcement to understand the legitimacy of this crop in Kansas, once we develop some information about how it grows and making it into an industrial hemp product,” Hoch said.
“It’s helping them to answer the question, ‘what should I be looking for to ensure that someone is conducting activities that they’re legally allowed to conduct?’”
K-State’s Griffin led tours of the university’s Haysville research plots and high tunnels to show law enforcement officials what an industrial hemp farm looks like, including comparing differences between a grain plot and a CBD plot. “We had a lot of great questions back and forth,” he said.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture has established the Industrial Hemp Research Program website to help provide clarity on new rules and regulations in the state.