It took long enough, but the country is finally starting to come around to hemp. Kansas is just taking a little longer than the rest of us.
The non-psycoactive cannabis plant and the oils, fibers and cannabinoids derived from it have seen a huge boom in consumer interest over the past few years and grew 16 percent in sales from 2016 to 2017, according to a recent analysis from Hemp Industry Daily. Hemp has even become an ingredient in beer, with Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing Company (the fourth-largest craft brewery in the country) releasing a pale ale in March that is brewed with hemp seeds to extract cannabis-like flavor and aromas.
Mixing beer and cannabis — even a harmless hemp seed with no THC or CBD — was sure to raise some uneducated eyebrows, but most of the country was pretty cool with Hemperor HPA (hemp pale ale), despite initial apprehension from a few states, according to New Belgium CEO Steve Fechheimer. In fact, 49 states allowed it to be sold within their borders shortly after the beer's release. The only state that didn't? Kansas.
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According to New Belgium, the beer was rejected earlier this year by the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control agency, which cited hemp as a banned ingredient in any alcoholic beverages. The state agency changed its mind in September, however, after New Belgium requested a review of the decision and Kansas state laws regarding industrial hemp. (The Kansas ABC didn't respond to requests for comment.)
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Although not quite as square as the attorneys general of Oklahoma and Nebraska, both of whom sued the State of Colorado in federal court in 2014 for legalizing cannabis, Kansas AG Derek Schmidt still isn't as woke as pot advocates would like. Before reversing himself in June, he'd deemed all hemp-derived CBD products illegal within the state, and once said this about Colorado to the Kansas City Star: "But doggone it, they have done something that federal law says they may not do, and it’s Kansans who are paying a price for that.”
I've met many fine people from Kansas, and I'm sure there's more to the state than endless flatlands and dozens of billboards praising Donald Trump, Jesus and University of Kansas basketball. But the people running that state need to get real. You can buy hemp seeds at King Soopers for your morning yogurt, and my girlfriend's mom uses hemp-seed oil for her poodle's skin condition. This was an easy 2+2 equation, yet somehow state regulators turned it into algebra.
New Belgium appears to be happy and lighthearted about the news. “We’d like to think Kansans could no longer bear living life without experiencing the Hemperor’s game-changing union of hops and hemp,” spokesman Jesse Claeys says. “It could also be that Kansas, like many other states in our glorious union, finally got a whiff of how versatile and sustainable of a crop industrial hemp can be, and how it could play a much bigger role in our economy.”
Cheers to hemp and cannabis, Kansans — even if you still can't smoke it.