Beginning January 1, 2023, Missouri’s industrial hemp program will no longer be administrated by the  Missouri Department of Agriculture(MDA.) Instead, the program will now be administrated by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Domestic Hemp Production Program.

What that means for Missouri hemp farmers is yet to be clearly defined in its entirety.

In a notice from MDA, the Department explains the shutdown of state oversight, “The decision to close the Department’s Industrial Hemp Program is based on declining registration and permit numbers, making the program funding unsustainable as required under statute. Producers will be able to pursue a USDA hemp licenses at no cost and reduce duplicative reporting of information to both the Department and USDA.”

While a reduction in redundancy and fees is great for Missouri’s hemp farmers, bigger issues may loom on the horizon.

Under Missouri law and the administration of MDA, Missouri’s hemp market was perhaps the most open free-market cannabis program in existence.

With no restrictions on importing hemp, no restrictions for processing, and no license required for either, Missouri’s hemp program opened the doors to producers and manufacturers unlike any other state.

Additionally, in recent years, Missouri’s multiple pieces of legislation have been proposed that would raise the legal limit of THC in hemp produced in Missouri from 0.3% to 1.0%, and while that legislation had not yet passed, the oversight if USDA makes that possibility nearly impossible.

With Federal oversight, state-level changes would no longer take precedence as there is no state authority administrating the program.

Additionally, the rise in pressure from outside the hemp industry surrounding Delta-8, Delta-10, hemp derived-Delta-9, HHC, THC-O, and a litany of other intoxicating or potentially intoxicating cannabinoids leaves Missouri hemp farmers more vulnerable with USDA oversight.

Under the administration of MDA, all hemp-derived products in Missouri were marketable products, and with few specifics in the rules, Missouri’s hemp businesses were left to police themselves and create their own standards and requirements.

Now with the increased scrutiny of USDA and a movement in other states to restrict or place additional oversight on intoxicating cannabinoids, it looks more and more likely that Missouri’s hemp farmers may soon face increased regulation regarding the type of products they are legally allowed to produce. This could mean the capital built in the Missouri legislature in recent years by Missouri’s hemp farmers and the Missouri Hemp Trade Association is now more limited, with federal administration state-level influence will have less impact on the growth and success of the industry long-term.

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, introduced federal legislation that would put a low-percentage cap on all hemp products, not just Delta-9 THC. For Missouri’s hemp farmers, the next steps will be ensuring that their fight is represented federally and that legislation like Rep. Pingree’s has opposition on a national scale.

For Missouri hemp farmers who will be growing in 2023, the USDA has launched a revamped online platform for reporting and registration you can register here https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/hemp/hemp-emanagement-platform.

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