State and federal fingerprint criminal background checks and a new fee schedule are some of the regulations that state agriculture officials have proposed as part of Missouri's industrial hemp program.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture released the proposed rules for Missouri’s industrial hemp program three weeks ahead of schedule to give interested producers time to review each rule before the public comment period opens. 

The rules amend existing requirements and transition the legal growth of industrial hemp in Missouri from a pilot program to a commercially regulated program after Senate Bill 133 went into effect on Aug. 28, and repealed the Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program. 

Lawmakers passed the bill this year that opened up hemp farming to universities to begin growing the plant for research, and amended former restrictions on the amount of acreage allowed for hemp farming, but required potential producers to be licensed by the state.

The proposed regulations require anyone applying to grow or distribute hemp to obtain a producer registration in order to produce industrial hemp, and an agricultural hemp propagule and seed permit, to sell, distribute or offer for sale any viable industrial hemp propagules or viable industrial hemp seed to registered producers or other permit holders.

No one in Missouri is allowed to possess, produce, distribute, sell or offer for sale any viable industrial hemp, including viable industrial hemp propagules or viable industrial hemp seed, without a valid producer registration or permit. 

Applicants are required to complete and pay for a state and federal fingerprint criminal background check every three years if they seek to renew their registration or permit. Once the Department issues registration and permits, they remain in effect for three years.

Proposed fees for the state industrial hemp program

The Department’s amendment for industrial hemp registration, permit and other related fees will cost private entities an estimated $350,000 per year in the aggregate, and will not cost state agencies or political subdivisions more than $500 in the aggregate. 

The Department proposes that applicants submit an annual $750 fee with each registration or permit application. Registered producers and permit holders must pay an annual fee of $750 for the second and third year of registration. Annual fees are due by the end of the month of the anniversary date of the initial approval.

If fees are not paid by the due date, a late fee of 25 percent will be assessed for fees that are up to 30 days past due. A late fee of 50 percent will be assessed for fees 31- to- 60 days past due. Fees that aren’t paid within 60 days of the due date will result in revocation of the producer registration or permit. 

The Department would be able to charge registered producers and permit holders for all applicable destruction certification expenses in proportion to the Missouri State Highway Patrol or local law enforcement agencies’ costs for certifying crop destruction. The destruction certification fee would be due 30 days after the invoice date. 

The Department proposes they bill registered producers and permit holders for all related inspection, investigation, and sampling costs, as well, including mileage charged at the federal mileage rate, and all related laboratory analysis costs.

All industrial hemp varieties produced within a parcel of land must be sampled in accordance with the department’s sampling protocol to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Sampling requirements and results of the analysis

Sampled plant material from multiple varieties shall not be commingled. Registered producers must collect samples within fifteen days prior to harvest or taking cuttings of parent plants.

Two composite samples of each variety must be collected.  One composite sample of each variety must be sent to an independent testing laboratory for analysis of delta-9 THC concentration on a dry weight basis, and the remaining one composite sample of each variety must be retained in accordance with established department protocols.

If the composite sample initially sent for analysis has a delta-9 THC concentration on a dry weight basis in an amount that is less than 0.3 percent, the industrial hemp may be sold as a publicly marketable product. If the concentration exceeds 0.3 percent but is less than or equal to 0.7 percent, the retained composite sample must be sent for analysis, unless the producer decides to destroy the variety per department protocol.

If the second composite sample’s analysis reports a delta-9 THC concentration of less than 0.3 percent, the producer will submit the certificate of analysis to the department and the industrial hemp may be sold as a publicly marketable product.

If the analysis reports a delta-9 THC concentration of greater than 0.3 percent, the variety is no longer considered industrial hemp and must be destroyed by the producer per Department protocol.

As the Department is working to establish regulations and procedures in advance of the 2020 industrial hemp growing season, the public comment period will open on Missouri’s Department of Agriculture’s website on Nov. 1 and close on Dec. 1.

The Department intends to use the feedback from citizens as well as federal regulatory guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the final policy decisions for the program. Applications for the state’s industrial hemp program are expected to be available as a fillable PDF by Dec. 2. The Department will operate under emergency regulations that will allow applications to be accepted and regulations and permits to be issued in time for the 2020 growing season, pending the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approval of the state plan.

States seeking to have primary regulatory authority over industrial hemp must submit a state plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval.

Citizens may view the proposed rules at Agriculture.Mo.Gov/plants/industrial-hemp. A formal comment form will be made available after the rules are published in the Missouri Register on Nov. 1.