Industrial hemp to be grown for research in Kansas

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) - Five years ago, Rock Gagnebin mowed over his weeds. He mowed and mowed, but the weeds just kept coming back.

"Dad used to say years ago, to get out there and mow over the marijuana weeds," said Gagnebin. "He just always assumed it was marijuana. The cattle would eat it when it was small, but when it got big we just always had to mow it down."

He says he sprayed it and mowed it. But then, he studied it and found out it was hemp. Now, he's studying the efforts by the Kansas Department of Agriculture to possibly allow industrial hemp to be grown as a research crop.

"Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 263, so now it may be able to become a crop in Kansas," said Gagnebin. And he says it could be a big crop for the state. 

On Friday, the Department of Agriculture is holding an open dialogue and information exchange at 1320 Research Park Drive in Manhattan.

Others who have done research will be there.

"Oh, I will be there," says PJ Sneed of the Hutchinson area. "It's just a crop that has been confused and intertwined with marijuana for years, but it's got potential as a crop to make fiber, oils for bio-fuel, paper... you name it, it can probably be made out of hemp."

Sneed bought 80 acres of land recently in anticipation of the state passing legislation to allow some to host research crops of hemp.

"You just can't get a high from industrial hemp. The TCH properties are not enough to match that of marijuana. It's not even close."

Industrial hemp was outlawed in the 1930's, but with Kansas passing and Governor Jeff Colyer signing a bill into law, the state could allow research crops by the year 2019.

"We used to grow it in the state. It's a crop that has been around for a long time," says Gagnebin. "I will keep grazing the cows on it for now. I can't seem to get rid of it. But, it makes sense as a crop in Kansas."

Gagnebin says it grows on his sandy, CRP land where he has cattle, so he believes it will grow well throughout the state.

"There's not infrastructure for the crop," says Gagnebin. "But the Alternative Crop Research Act is a good step into getting the crop to be produced here.

The state is bringing in guest speakers on Friday at the public forum. There will be three separate two-hour sessions to provide an overview of the research act.

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