Industrial hemp grown for research purposes will be planted in Kansas, but first the Kansas Department of Agriculture must create rules and regulations for the program.

Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the Alternative Crop Research Act into law April 20, establishing that research program for the cultivation of industrial hemp will be established in Kansas. However, no seeds will go into the ground until KDA has a finalized set of rules defining how the program will — and will not — operate.

The development of rules for the program is being overseen by the Plant Protection and Weed Control division of KDA, and the agency hosted three public forums to discuss the process May 11 in Manhattan.

KDA Noxious and Invasive Weed Specialist Scott Marsh said some aspects of the program are written in stone, while others are in the process of being developed through research and public input.

“The stuff that is written in stone is the statute,” Marsh said. “That says a program will be developed, certified seed will be used, and the work we do will go into research and development of industrial hemp.”

The statute also outlines cooperation with state universities, and the requirement to develop an advisory board for the program. The program is also required to comply with federal law.

The job now for Marsh and others at KDA is to fill in the blanks. The KDA’s regulations will include outlining the make-up of the advisory board, designing a plan for licensing growers and more.

Before the program can begin, regulations must be drafted and discussed with stakeholders. Then they must be approved by the secretary of administration, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office and the legislature before being discussed in a public hearing. All of these steps could lead to amendments or changes before the regulations are approved by the secretary of agriculture and published in the Kansas Register.

“The process for getting regulations in place can take 12 to 18 months,” said Jeff Vogel, KDA plant protection and weed control director. “But we only have seven months.”

The regulations are scheduled to go into effect December 31. In January, Marsh, Vogel and their team are required to file a report on how the research program can be transitioned to commercial production, even though seeds won’t go in the ground until the 2019 growing season.

“That report could be changed or be updated as we do research,” Marsh said.

Licensing for research projects will be open to state educational institutions, such as Kansas State University, Fort Hays State University and more, but also to individuals.

“The program will be open to any individual grower, but it will need to be a research project,” KDA Director of Communications Heather Lansdowne said. “They will have to qualify in the application how the research will be done, and the rules will lay out those requirements.”

KDA is sharing ideas with states like Kentucky and Colorado, which already have hemp programs in place. A representative from each state spoke at the May 11 forums, outlining how the programs work in their respective homelands.

A fee will be charged for licensure, and that money will be placed into a specific fund used to develop the program.

More information on the cultivation of industrial hemp in Kansas and where KDA is in the regulatory process can be found at http://agriculture.ks.gov/industrialhemp.