In the coming debate over medical marijuana, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain could find himself in a pivotal role.

That’s according to Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, who is sponsoring SB 541 to further define how medical marijuana can be obtained by certain patients after it’s prescribed by a doctor.

Mills, a pharmacist, says Strain’s department will be needed to make sure marijuana plants have the right kind of potency and are checked for quality control. The legislation brings Strain into the picture as a member of the Therapeutic Marijuana Utilization Review Board that would be created.

But there’s also more of a direct oversight role.

“I’ve spoken to my counterparts in other states about what’s going on. We’ll have to make sure it’s grown under the proper conditions and it’s not sprayed with pesticides,” Strain says. “The people who might be using this already have pre-existing conditions.”

The bill would allow for six growing facilities, one for each congressional district. Producers would also have to come up with $2 million in escrow.

“You would have to have a pretty good production facility that would be tightly controlled,” Strain adds.

While the commissioner couldn’t provide any numbers for how much of a cash crop it might become, he says it would initially be a “small to medium sized production where the volume wouldn’t be that great.”

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