The Mississippi hemp industry took a step forward with the formation of the Hemp Cultivation Task Force—a result of legislation that McLaughlin, PC supported in the Mississippi Legislature this year.
by Conner Reeves
In late 2018, the federal government legalized hemp through the 2018 Farm Bill, distinguishing it from its cousin marijuana while reopening the doors to revive a hemp industry that has roots as deep as our country’s beginning. The Mississippi Legislature needed (and still needs) to adopt legislation to change existing state law so that the state can make possible a legalized Mississippi hemp industry.
During the 2019 legislative session, McLaughlin, PC lobbied on behalf of this theoretical Mississippi hemp industry in the hopes of creating economic growth across parts of Mississippi, both to bolster small towns with processing facilities (think the new cotton gin) and provide farmers a profitable crop, hemp, to put in their rotation. Though we were met with much apathy and some resistance, we were successful in getting the Legislature to pass legislation that created a task force, which will now explore the opportunities and risks of the state operating a hemp program.
Commissioner Andy Gipson of the MS Department of Agriculture and Commerce chairs the Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Task Force which includes representatives from Mississippi State University, Ole Miss’s National Center for Natural Products Research (which grows marijuana for federal research), farming advocacy organizations, law enforcement agencies, members of the Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate, Alcorn State University, and other appointees.
Among a large gathering of the public (mostly interested farmers), the Task Force met for the first time on Monday, July 8, 2019, and created committees to tackle issues such as economic opportunities and job creation, cultivation and agronomy, and regulation and law enforcement. Each committee will provide recommendations at the next meeting of the Task Force on September 25, which will ultimately lead to a final recommendation back to the Mississippi Legislature ahead of the 2020 legislative session.
As we’ve noted before at McLaughlin, PC, the hemp industry is projected to see multi-year growth from the sales of hemp-derived CBD and fiber. Some market factors depend on the timeliness of changes to federal USDA regulations which will create a framework for the USDA to approve state hemp programs.
With these new rules set to roll out in August of 2019, many states have laid regulatory groundwork to allow hemp cultivation as early as the 2020 grow season. Though Mississippi isn’t as ahead as many other states, the Task Force can (and should) make a favorable recommendation to the Legislature so Mississippi farmers aren’t a grow season behind the rest of the country.
If you have a business interest in industrial hemp and want to learn more, please contact us at McLaughlin, PC.