Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Swamp is deep in Topeka, too

Assistant Kansas Ag Secretary Josh Roe at a Kansas Farmers Union meeting.
Dane Hicks, Publisher
The Anderson County Review
Garnett, Kansas

Congratulations to Rep. Willie Dove, author of The Alternative Crop Research Act, which sort of legalized industrial hemp in Kansas. The measure was recently approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Colyer.

It almost didn't happen, and due to bureaucratic canoodling it will still be years before Kansas farmers get to catch up to those in 30 other states where they're making money with hemp crops. All because the "swamp" is deep in Topeka, too.

The bill was the culmination of three years of effort by Dove, a Bonner Springs Republican, and others. The Sunflower State joins 30-odd others in the nation in legalizing the plant, distinguishable from its cousin marijuana by its THC content (1/30 as much), versatility (25,000 different products that can be eaten, worn, applied to the body, manufactured into auto parts and building materials, among thousands of other uses) and its "green" aptitude (requires no pesticides or herbicides and can be planted to "heal" toxic soil.

Despite these attributes – not theoretical, mind you, but practiced daily in states far ahead of Kansas in harvesting and manufacturing hemp – Rep. Dove had to overcome lies, distortions and back-stabbing to achieve his legislative goal.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Kansas Sheriffs Association purposely conflated industrial hemp with marijuana, despite genetic proof to the contrary. Since when are the KBI and KSA disinterested in evidence? The distinguishing characteristics between the two plants are well understood in Kentucky, Tennessee, Colorado and the other states whose law enforcement concerns were apparently satisfied with the science. But not in Kansas. The lawmen argued that hemp producers would try an end-run around pot laws by planting weed among the hemp. They were unconvinced when shown scientific proof that marijuana planted near hemp loses much of its THC concentration when the plants cross-pollinate.

When confronted with science, the KSA's legislative lackey, Katie Wishman, resorted to funny math instead. The Dove Bill would have cost taxpayers no more than $60,000 in start-up costs. Not so, said Wishman, her abacus rattling. More like $800,000. When asked why her figures were 15 times that calculated by the nonpartisan Kansas Legislative Research Department, Wishman answered her number was the "most" it might cost. Any wonder why spending is out of control in Topeka?
The KBI and KSA have a great deal of influence in the State Capitol, and for good reason. They are dedicated professionals and have earned the respect of all Kansans. But they are not immune to political hackery. Their foolish opposition to this legislation was a disservice to their state, and it will continue to limit farmers' incomes and the Kansas economy.

At least law enforcement's opposition was partially defensible as misplaced concern for public safety. But the mindless interference by the Kansas Department of Agriculture was all about bureaucratic turf protection.

The ag department never promoted the bill despite proof in other states of the benefits accruing to farmers. The department ping-ponged from being against hemp, then mildly in favor of it, then neutral. Each day seemed to bring a new posture until this year, when the legislation was gutted to such an extent that it survived only as a research and pilot program. 
Administered by...wait for it...

The Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Suddenly, deputy ag secretary Josh Roe and his department became acolytes of industrial hemp, a conversion worthy of Paul on the Road to Damascus.

    Ag will now administer the research program conducted statewide by universities – totally redundant and unnecessary. The "research" has already been conducted in the states operating a thriving hemp industry. Why does Kansas have to re-invent the hemp wheel?

The lying, obfuscation, and bureaucratic inertia from the KBI, KSA, and KDOA should be condemned by all Kansans, regardless of political stripe. These Establishment Types cost farmers, transporters, and manufacturers an opportunity to immediately take advantage of the profit potential from this amazing plant.

We now have to wait a year or two, or more, while academics and pencil-pushers discover what folks in more than 30 states already know; the miracle of industrial hemp.