Section: News

Hemp production is legal, but regulations trouble farmers

Ohio’s recent legalization of hemp production in July has piqued the farming community’s interest. The law, signed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on July 30, 2019, allows farmers to grow hemp as long as it contains less than 0.3 percent THC, according to the Cleveland Scene.

Although hemp and marijuana are both varieties of the cannabis plant, hemp does not produce the same psychoactive effect as marijuana, which contains high levels of THC. Hemp contains mostly CBD, which is used for anxiety relief and helps with sleep. CBD has gained increasing popularity over the years; it can be found in lotions, soaps and various oils. Because of this growing demand, farmers foresee considerable income from the hemp market.

However, as the Ohio Department of Agriculture finalizes regulations on hemp production, small farmers have worries that the hemp market could become exclusionary.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, hemp farmers are required to use at least a quarter acre and must grow at least 1,000 plants. This regulation is designed to help authorities differentiate between marijuana grown illegally in backyards and hemp grown solely for commercial production.

Andy Hupp, a farmer looking to plant hemp, told the Dispatch that this requirement is a “high barrier for entry.” Devoting a quarter of an acre and growing 1,000 plants, he said, is a “pretty big risk.”

Erika Stark, executive director of the National Hemp Association, told the Scene that since this is such a new development, farmers should make sure that they understand the regulations as they unfold.

“For any farmer looking to get into this for the very first time, I seriously recommend starting small,” Stark said. “Don’t go from never growing it before to planting 20, 50, 100 acres.”

Those who wish to grow hemp in more than one place are required to obtain a license for each location and pay an application fee of $500.

Given the restrictions on THC levels, farmers must be mindful that hemp generates more THC as it ages. Farmers might need to harvest their crop before it fully matures in order to stay under the limit.

“You could have thousands of dollars invested in this, but if you surpass that threshold, you’re going to have to destroy your whole crop,” Troy Erickson, an entrepreneur who plans to harvest hemp, told the Dispatch.

As rules and regulations continue to develop, farmers must be aware of the challenges that may unfold if they choose to take on hemp production.

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