The 2018 legislative session is nearly half over. Next Thursday, upon adjournment, the Missouri General Assembly’s week-long spring break will begin, marking the half way point of the legislative session. The last half of session is always a blur of activity, as lawmakers still work to approve the state’s operating budget as well as pass several important pieces of legislation. 

This week, the Missouri Senate passed Senate Bill 547. The bill creates a pilot program that grants farmers permissions to produce and purchase hemp in Missouri. Under the proposal, the Department of Agriculture would regulate the production and marketing of hemp. I believe this proposal will allow us to expand Missouri’s agricultural landscape and provide our farmers with a new source of revenue. 

The bill would also ensure hemp growers are not subjected to federal laws under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. Currently, hemp is classified among drugs such as cannabis, despite the fact it contains less than three percent of THC. Currently, there are 34 states who have enacted hemp bills, issuing nearly 1,500 licenses to produce the crop. 

Hemp can be used for a variety of products. For example, hemp is used to create rope, clothing, food and even building materials. Although it is one of the oldest crops known to man, it is unusual because nearly every part of the plant has value. Until recently, however, hemp was an illegal crop due to its relationship to marijuana, therefore it is important to note that industrial hemp is not the same as marijuana.  

Currently, Missouri is one of five states where 17-year-old children can be sent to prison for committing crimes, no matter how minor the offense. On Thursday, March 8, my Senate colleagues and I approved Senate Bill 793, legislation raising the age of adult court jurisdiction from 17 years of age to 18 years. 

In Missouri, 17-year-olds can’t vote, they can’t serve on juries and they can’t even buy a lottery ticket. However, our court system automatically tries 17-year-olds as adults no matter how minor the crime. Missouri’s prison system is not set up to address the needs of children. Offenders who have served their time in our correctional system are three times more likely to return to prison than kids leaving one of our state’s juvenile facilities. 

Senate Bill 793 does not prevent the court system from prosecuting 17-year-olds accused of serious crimes as adults. This legislation not only provides numerous economic and practical benefits to our state, but it extends an opportunity for our young people to address issues in their lives while keeping them out of the Department of Corrections adult facilities. 

There are more than 13,000 children in Missouri’s foster care system; 1,200 of these children are living without foster parents. The Department of Social Services is in need of adoptive parents; people willing to open their lives to those children whose birth parents no longer have parental rights. These children simply seek the love that every child craves. For more information on adoption in Missouri through the Department of Social Services visit https://dss.mo.gov/cd/adoption/.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.

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