KS lawmakers consider measure to conduct research into uses of industrial hemp

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PLEVNA, Kan. State lawmakers in Kansas are considering measures to conduct research into the uses of industrial hemp.

The product comes from a sativa plant, like marijuana, but the hemp plant looks much different and is used to create thousands of products.

But as efforts to legalize research continue in Kansas, some farmers think these efforts aren't enough.

For farmers like Rock Gagnebin near Plevna, cattle is the main source of income, but he sees a golden opportunity with a different kind of crop.

"Hemp, you can eat it, or you can build a house with it," Gagnebin says.

Gagnebin has done a lot of research into industrialized hemp, a species of cannabis with less than 0.3-percent THC -- the chemical in marijuana that gets you high -- but is illegal to grow in Kansas.

"Farmers future is pretty grim at this point," Gagnebin says.

He says hemp could provide a much-needed boost to the farm economy.

"If you can increase the ag production 20 to 30 fold, that 50-percent turns into 80 to 90-percent ag economy in Kansas," Gagnebin says. "...That fixes a lot of debt, budget deficits, farmers are making money. When farmers are making money, they're willing to pay for stuff."

A bill making its way through the Statehouse would allow the department of agriculture to conduct research into the uses of industrial hemp. Gagnebin says that research is already done.

"When you have 30 states already doing something with hemp, we don't need new research," he says.

Instead, Gagnebin would rather see legislation passed that allows farmers to start growing it and cashing in on the potential value.

"All that bill is gonna do is research the farmers out of business," he says. "Because right now, the farmers are in bad shape.

Gagnebin says he's hopeful lawmakers will make some changes to the current bill that will allow farmers to immediately take advantage of the potential benefits of industrial hemp.