As the Hemp Cultivation Task Force kicks off their work, Mississippi now finds itself on an island as the only state in the Southeast where the cultivation of hemp is illegal.

This year, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas joined the ranks of states legalizing industrial hemp. As states continue to move in that direction, Mississippi is sitting with just Idaho, Ohio, and South Dakota among the only states in the nation where hemp remains illegal.

The South Dakota legislature Ok’d hemp legalization earlier this year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Kristi Noem.    

Cultivation of hemp for commercial, research, or pilot programs

We have seen a massive move toward hemp legalization at the state level after the 2018 Farm Bill expanded the cultivation of hemp. Previously, federal law did not differentiate hemp from other cannabis plants, even though you can’t get high from hemp. Because of this, it was essentially made illegal. But we did have pilot programs or limited purpose small-scale program for hemp, largely for research. 

Now, hemp cultivation is much broader, with the Farm Bill allowing the transfer of hemp across state lines, with no restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products. There are still limitations, but most states have taken the opportunity to find new markets for those who would like to cultivate hemp. 

The message from Marshall Fisher, the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, at yesterday’s first meeting of the task force was that we can’t do this. It’s not regulated enough, there is a link between hemp and fentanyl, and we will see more people being buried if we move in this direction. And law enforcement can’t tell the difference between hemp and cannabis. 

We don’t know what the task force will recommend. It includes both supporters and opponents. And of course, the legislature – who will be tasked with acting on any recommendations – will be different next year. 

But, if we have questions on whether or not hemp leads to chaos in the streets, we can just look to 46 other states.