Washington hemp industry grows, but not as fast as Oregon’s

Washington state hemp farm

The number of licensed hemp farmers in Washington has more than doubled since May, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

As of Tuesday the department had issued licenses to 87 growers, compared to 35 in late May. The state has issued another 18 licenses to processors. Many farmers have combination licenses to grow and process hemp.

The department is reviewing about 30 more applications and expects to eventually issue approximately 150 hemp-related licenses this year, spokesman Chris McGann said.

Washington’s hemp industry is still small compared to several states, including Oregon. The growth, however, firms up a once-shaky program. Washington’s hemp crop last year was 140 acres cultivated by the Colville tribe in northeast Washington.

This year, farmers have registered to plant 6,700 acres, not counting greenhouses. Several large Eastern Washington farms have obtained hemp licenses.

McGann said the department anticipates the hemp program will become self-supporting. Lawmakers this spring sent the department $212,000 to avoid massive increases in license fees paid by farmers.

“We don’t expect to have to go back to the Legislature,” McGann said. “All expectations are, yes, it will be sustainable.”

The 2018 Farm Bill took hemp off the federally controlled substance list. The federal government still requires states to license and inspect hemp farms.

Oregon has added 300 licensed hemp farmers in the past seven weeks and now has 1,642, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Farmers have registered to plant 53,573, almost a fivefold increase over last year when the state licensed 584 growers.

The USDA is expected to propose national hemp regulations in the fall. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said after touring a Kentucky hemp farm July 2 that the crop’s connection with marijuana has not been entirely severed yet.

“I think what I heard was a lot of opportunity, but a lot of challenges needing a federal framework to help guide the progress of this crop,” he said. “We heard about financial transaction issues where this crop is conflated with its illegal cousin in many states.”

Industrial Hemp Association of Washington lobbyist Bonny Jo Peterson said the state’s first full-fledged hemp season has been marked by “mishaps and hiccups” as farms try to find the right seeds and equipment.

“I think too many farmers went too big, too quick,” she said. “There’s going to be a lot of trial and expense and unfortunately a lot of lost crop.

“If you’re not ready to go now, wait until next year. Learn from other people’s experiences.”

Peterson said farmers who plan carefully will be in better position to survive if the CBD oil boom busts. CBD oil is marketed for a wide variety of ailments. The Food and Drug Administration is examining claims about the extract’s benefits.

Washington collects an annual $450 application fee from hemp farmers, plus $300 for a one-year license. Farmers must pay another $200 for each additional field, plus testing fees.

The Washington Department of Revenue has said it will tax hemp like any other agricultural product. Hemp growers are eligible for tax breaks available to other farmers, according to the department.

Content from: https://www.capitalpress.com/ag_sectors/livestock/washington-hemp-industry-grows-but-not-as-fast-as-oregon/article_29497a82-a27b-11e9-aeb3-df13163157ae.html.

NC lawmakers want to ban smokable hemp, but farmers got a ‘win’ Wednesday

North Carolina hemp smokable hempFarmers may get to grow and sell smokable hemp for another year.

A legislative committee on Wednesday endorsed changes to the Farm Act, a bill intended to regulate the hemp industry, that would ban smokable hemp in late 2020.

The proposed ban isn’t ideal for hemp advocates. But lawmakers viewed it as a compromise between farmers who want to legalize hemp indefinitely and law enforcement officers who want to ban it immediately.

Taylon Breeden, who works for the Simply Extract hemp oil company near Asheville, said she was encouraged by Wednesday’s vote. She became a hemp activist after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which affects digestion.

The previously proposed 2019 ban would be “devastating,” for farmers, Breednen said. “This was a win for us,” Breeden said. “We didn’t think that this would be the case at all.”

The bill, passed by the Senate earlier this year, still needs approval from the House and Gov. Roy Cooper to become law.

North Carolina loosened its hemp laws in 2015. After state Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson County proposed the Farm Act to expand the industry even further, law enforcement groups spoke out against the spread of hemp flower.

Hemp looks and smells like marijuana — it’s green and has a skunky odor — but it can’t get users high because it has only a small amount of the chemical THC. Prosecutors and cops say the similarities between the plants complicate drug investigations.

Their position was emphasized in Wednesday’s meeting when Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, a Democrat, said local police were recently able to arrest a felon with a firearm after smelling the marijuana odor from his car.

“This is a public safety concern,” she said.

Until Wednesday, the bill included an amendment to ban smokable hemp this December. The proposed December 2020 ban gives lawmakers another year to find a kit that can help police test for THC in hemp.

The bill had been stalled for a few weeks. But it advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday after a change in position by Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Republican from Duplin County.

Dixon previously said the legislature was putting the “cart before the horse” for approving smokable hemp before law enforcement agencies adopted a cheap, reliable method for testing for THC. He previously proposed a ban starting Dec. 1, 2019.

But Wednesday, Dixon stood next to Jackson in the committee and asked committee members to support a ban starting in December 2020.

“There’s not yet been a bill proposed in this committee or any other committee that would solve law enforcement’s concerns. The General Assembly does not have the ability to do that,” Dixon said. “This is ultimately going to be resolved in the courts.”

It’s unclear whether the full House will support the proposal from Dixon and Jackson, both Republicans.

State Rep. Allen McNeill, a Randolph County Republican, said he’d support the bill Wednesday to advance it out of the committee. But he said he’s not sure if he’ll vote for it on the House floor.

State Rep. Brandon Lofton, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, pointed out that the reverting the bill to Jackson’s version would undo amendments adopted in other House committees.

Dixon suggested that Lofton shouldn’t tie his hopes to one version of any bill.

Content from: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article233074152.html.

Oregon hemp farmers seek stable marketplace

Oregon hemp farmerThe Oregon hemp industry is booming, but still faces an uncertain future.

A lack of consistent testing policies, outdated U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation and rules, and problems with banking were some of the issues behind the urgent tone at a recent Oregon hemp farmer roundtable discussion hosted by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden at the University of Oregon Downtown Innovation Hub.

Farmers sat alongside industry lobbyists, scientists, professors, designers, producers and Oregon Department of Agriculture officials, expressing their concerns for the future of the industrial hemp business and crop. Despite the uncertainty, Wyden said the level of commitment from industry professionals makes Oregon the perfect state to lead the industry.

“We’ve got it all right around this table,” the Oregon Democrat said during the early July roundtable. “We’ve got essentially the modern leadership to tap the incredible potential for hemp growth in Oregon. And Oregon, as is our tradition, can be a trailblazer with addressing these issues.”

Need for clear regulations, testing

In 2018, Wyden led the charge to legalize hemp with legislation in the 2018 Farm Bill. Wyden’s work alongside Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it possible for the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 to become a bipartisan piece of legislation included in the final bill that passed in December.

The bill defined hemp as an agricultural commodity and ultimately removed it from the controlled substance list. The legislation allows for interstate commerce and crop insurance. States are federally required to regulate and inspect hemp farms, but the act gives them the ability to be the primary regulators of hemp production.

Because hemp is now labeled as an agricultural commodity, the USDA is in charge of regulating it instead of the U.S. Department of Justice. Unfortunately, the USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have not issued updated policies and regulations hemp industry professionals need. These regulations would determine testing and production specifications the industry abides by. Without them, farmers risk losing thousands of dollars because their current crops may not be in compliance.

The lack of industry standards is what Liz Gale, farmer and owner of Living Harvest Farm LLC in Dallas, Ore., said made the roundtable meeting extremely important because farmers need to know what’s going on.

“Things change all the time,” Gale said. “The plants that I have in the ground right now, what’s all decided around these tables, is going to determine whether I can sell it or not at the end of the year.”

Gale said she’s grown medicinal and recreational crops in the past but hemp creates new opportunities. For Gale, a mother of two sons, hemp farming is a family business.

“If you can sustain your family, and generationally have family farms with hemp crops, that’s where I think hemp will change America,”  she said.

Unfortunately, the industry needs to cut through red tape before it can change much of anything. A big part of the issue comes down to testing the plants and defining THC.

While marijuana and hemp are cannabis plants, hemp has a low THC concentration. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the concentrated psychoactive chemical in marijuana that makes users feel high. The Oregon Department of Agriculture issued rules saying that hemp can’t contain more than 0.3% total THC.

Total THC is the sum of delta-9 THC and THCA, an acidic cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Different testing methods at different labs may impact how the substances are measured and reported. According to Sunny Summers, Cannabis Policy Coordinator for ODA, the language in the farm bill isn’t clear.

“Testing consistency is a big concern and struggle for the industry,” Summers said. “I want hemp to be hemp in Oregon, in Kentucky, or whatever state it was grown in. I want it to be the same.”

Sean Beeman, co-founder of Genesis Pharms, is concerned that with testing issues, the booming industry that is Oregon hemp will come to a halt by harvest time. Beeman is most concerned about the increase in growers with little to no experience.

“Every grower I know or meet, both cannabis and hemp, are just too excited lately,” Beeman said. “There are too many people who think they can use their ag experience to make money. The reality is, just because you can farm corn, doesn’t mean you can farm hemp.”

According to Beeman, some agriculture farmers are jumping into the industry to make a profit and cutting corners to get past testing regulations. Despite the fact that the industry skyrocketed, Beeman said there’s a supply-and-demand issue when it comes to processing hemp, and ODA’s regulations are negatively impacting that.

“The bubble we have lived in this past year has popped and will not be back,” Beeman said. “The ODA has now updated the rules and these new rules greatly reduce the value and the possible positions farmers will find themselves in come harvest time.”

There are 1,642 registered hemp farmers in Oregon compared to 584 registered last year. According to the ODA, those farmers have registered to plant more than 53,000 acres. In an effort to further help the industry and protect farmers, Oregon State University will take the lead on certifying hemp seed for registered Oregon growers. This will ensure the seed and, eventually, the hemp crop, remain up-to-date with state and federal industry specifications.

In June, OSU unveiled its Global Hemp Innovation Center, the largest hemp lab in the country. Hemp researchers are now eligible to receive competitive federal grants through the USDA, under the farm bill legislation. The lab aims to innovate across several fields including food, product testing and cultivation by combining 40 members of OSU faculty, working across 19 academic disciplines to help address hemp’s full potential.

Lack of business services, hurts hemp farmers

While innovation is underway, business owners still are suffering. Hemp CBD companies are struggling to find credit unions and banks to work with, despite hemp being legal because it’s still a cannabis plant. U.S. Bank and its subsidiary, Elavon, made headlines when they cut ties with the CBD industry earlier this year.

Local hemp farmer Douglas Bergren agrees that there are significant banking issues for Oregon hemp farmers. Bergren and his wife Jenifer own Greenlogic LLC and the Lay Low Ranch hemp farm in Lane County. The couple is struggling to find a bank that will allow them to open a business account. Three of the company’s bank accounts — two this year alone — were canceled because it’s a hemp-based company.

“We are at the point where we can have personal accounts, but we can’t have one for our business,” said Bergren, who did not attend Wyden’s roundtable. “Our hands are tied.

It’s also been a struggle to find crop insurance, Bergren said. While the bill allows hemp farmers the ability to insure their crop, insurance companies are still turning farmers such as Bergren down. The couple say they feel incredibly fortunate to have their farm and to be able to work in the industry, but not having banking services for their business or the ability to insure their crop puts their company at risk every season.

“We’re losing the ability to function as a business, directly to retail,” Bergren said. “We have to work on a wholesale basis. For every one sale we make, we have to turn 10 people down.”

Hemp can be used as a renewable resource for paper, building materials, textiles and health products. A major market also has grown out of CBD, or cannabidiol, and its potential for food or health supplements. The CBD market is estimated to grow from $618 million in 2018 to $22 billion by 2022, according to the Brightfield Group, an analytics firm that tracks the cannabis industry.

While there are a few financial institutions that support CBD-based companies, others view the lack of regulation from the FDA as a risk.

In a June 2019 press release, the FDA said it was actively evaluating the framework surrounding regulations for non-drug use of cannabis-derived products and would consider what legislation or regulatory updates should be made.

Wyden said he received a letter from the FDA saying the agency would need three to five years to evaluate regulations.

“I am going to bring the Food and Drug Administration kicking and screaming and hollering in to getting these issues resolved,” said Wyden, calling it regulatory underbrush that needed to be handled.

Content from: https://www.registerguard.com/news/20190715/oregon-hemp-farmers-seek-stable-marketplace.

Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska company chosen to grow hemp

A farming business owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s economic development corporation will start growing hemp this summer on the tribe’s reservation.

Ho-Chunk Farms announced Thursday that it was one of 10 applicants that received a state license to start hemp farming. Nebraska cleared the way for a limited number of farmers to grow hemp with a new law passed in May.

Aaron LaPointe, the company’s business manager, says the first season will start small, with 5.5 acres of hemp. Planting is expected to start in the coming weeks. LaPointe says the initial crop for a pilot program will help the company prepare for next year.

Industrial hemp was legalized in 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.

Content from: https://www.ketv.com/article/winnebago-tribe-nebraska-company-chosen-grow-hemp/28448195.

Coalition Letter to USDA on Farm Bill Hemp Felony Provisions

June 14, 2019

The Honorable Stephen Alexander Vaden
General Counsel
Office of General Counsel
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Mr. Vaden:

We write concerning a provision enacted as part of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334) that makes any person convicted within the past ten years of a felony relating to a controlled substance under State or Federal law ineligible to produce hemp in accordance with a State, Tribal or Federal plan and Federal regulations. We urge the USDA to implement the hemp felony ban to apply only to individuals seeking a license or authorization to produce hemp in accordance with a state, tribal or USDA plan.

Although Congress specified that the hemp felony ban should apply to producers, there are many occupational roles that could be interpreted to be involved in hemp production. Should the provision be interpreted in an inappropriately broad manner, state agricultural authorities and the private sector would be required to conduct costly background checks, screen and track workers involved in hemp production operations such as cultivation, processing, packaging and transporting hemp products. Application of the hemp felony ban in this manner through USDA rulemaking would impose unnecessary hardship on states, the agriculture industry and individual farmers to comply with the rule.

We believe a fair reading of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 and the accompanying conference report indicates that Congress intended for this provision to only apply to individuals seeking a license or authorization to produce hemp in accordance with a state, tribal or USDA plan.

The conference report accompanying the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 specifies

“negligent and other types of producer violations that require enforcement under a state or tribal plan. One such producer violation includes the felony ban regarding individuals that cannot “participate in state or tribal plans.” The conference report then states that the felony ban “shall not apply to producers” who were lawfully participating in a state hemp pilot program prior to enactment. The felony ban clearly applies to producers.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 further specifies requirements that must be fulfilled before a producer can participate in a State, Tribal or Federal plan including:

  • Providing a legal description of land on which the producer produces hemp;
  • Producing hemp containing less than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis.

These requirements that a producer must meet to lawfully participate in a State, Tribal or Federal plan are consistent with the roles and responsibilities of an individual seeking a license or authorization from the government. The hemp felony ban therefore applies to individuals seeking to obtain and maintain a license or authorization from the government to produce hemp. The hemp felony ban should not apply to any other individuals engaged in lawful hemp production under a State, Tribal or Federal plan, including any individuals employed by a producer.

We therefore urge USDA to follow congressional intent and limit the application of the felony ban only to individuals seeking to obtain a license or authorization to produce hemp in accordance with the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

To further discuss our views, please contact Aline DeLucia with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture; or Scott Bennett with the American Farm Bureau Federation; or Eric Steenstra with Vote Hemp; or Grant Smith with the Drug Policy Alliance.

Thank you for considering our perspective,

American Farm Bureau Federation
Drug Policy Alliance
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
Vote Hemp

Vote Hemp Submits Comments to Food and Drug Administration Regarding Regulation of CBD

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Vote Hemp, the nation’s leading grassroots hemp advocacy organization, has submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration regarding proposed regulatory policies for hemp-derived cannabidiol, or CBD, products. Submitted at the invitation of the Food and Drug Administration, given recent December, 2018 legislation in the Farm Bill to legalize hemp farming in the U.S. and remove hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act; Vote Hemp’s proposal for FDA regulation of CBD products focuses on the imperatives to 1) Require that U.S. manufactured CBD products be produced in accordance with FDA standards for dietary supplements; and 2) Assert the importance of FDA acceptance of only plant-derived CBD products within existing framework for dietary supplement manufacturing and labeling; and 3) Have FDA promptly issue an Interim Final Rule with an accelerated effective date authorizing the sale of hemp-derived dietary supplements and foods containing CBD.

To read Vote Hemp’s statement to the FDA, regarding CBD product regulation, please visit: www.VoteHemp.com/fdacomments.

“Vote Hemp is eager to continue this dialog with the Food and Drug Administration, to share our expertise on hemp products and the U.S. market for hemp goods, and ensure that consumers are able to obtain products manufactured according to the same best-practices and requirements for health and safety, that all other herbal dietary supplement products are accountable to,” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “The consumer demand for CBD products is for hemp plant-derived, high quality products, made from hemp grown by American farmers—not synthetic imitations. We look forward to engaging with FDA further to ensure the interests of hemp famers, business owners, and hemp consumers are protected.”

One of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. hemp market, hemp-derived CBD product sales are expected to exceed $646 million in annual revenue by 2022, according to Hemp Business Journal. For more information about the hemp-derived CBD market in the U.S., please visit: https://www.votehemp.com/press_releases/annual-retail-sales-for-hemp-derived-cbd-products-estimated-exceed-646-million-by-2022/.

Vote Hemp consulted with State agriculture officials and calculated that approximately 78,176 acres of hemp crops were planted across 24 states during 2018 in the U.S., 40 universities conducted research on hemp cultivation, and 3,544 State hemp licenses were issued across the country. Data from market research by Hemp Business Journal supports an estimate of total retail sales of hemp food, supplements and body care products in the United States at $553 million. Sales of popular hemp items like non-dairy milk, shelled seed, soaps and lotions have continued to increase, complemented by successful hemp cultivation pilot programs in several states, and increasing grassroots pressure to allow hemp to be grown domestically on a commercial scale once again for U.S. processors and manufacturers. Hemp Business Journal has also reviewed sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products, and estimates the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2017 to be at least $820 million. The United States is the largest consumer market for hemp products in the world.

# # #

Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow the agricultural crop. More information about hemp legislation and the crop’s many uses may be found at www.VoteHemp.com.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduces the Hemp For Victory Act providing support for the growing hemp industry

Hemp For Victory Act - H.R. 3652Rep. Gabbard (D-HI) introduced H.R. 3652, the Hemp For Victory Act which lays the foundation for the emerging hemp industry in a manner that incentivizes family farmers and small businesses, protects against corporate monopolies, and studies the benefits of hemp cultivation and hemp-based products while ensuring safe agricultural practices, and environmental and labor considerations.

Vote Hemp strongly supports the bill and believes this is the kind of legislation needed to help the nascent hemp industry build a solid footing. We are proud to have helped draft the bill and intend to continue advocating for legislation that will move the hemp industry forward. You can view the full bill here.

Please take action now and urge your Representative to cosponsor the bill.

Below are details on the provisions in the bill.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • Establish a grant program for universities to “conduct research on establishing. hemp as a domestic agricultural commodity.”
  • Study the nutritional value of hemp foods, drinks and supplement products.
  • Study whether such hemp products could be used as “low-cost healthy alternatives” for public school lunches for low-income students.
  • Research whether items being used by the federal government its contractors could be substituted by hemp-based products.
  • Study the potential of hemp “for soil erosion control and as a windscreen.”
  • Create guidance for cultivating organic hemp.
  • Designate hemp as a “high priority research” crop eligible for grants that would be used to “develop and disseminate science-based tools and treatments to combat noxious species that impact hemp farms, and to establish and areawide integrated pest management program.”
  • Research the economics of the international hemp market.
  • Study the “use and presence of agricultural chemicals and pathogens” in hemp to inform public safety standards.
  • Make hemp available for grants to conduct research “on the cultivation of hemp as a commodity, including production guidance for underserved and rural communities and technical assistance for available grants.”
    Integrate hemp into market research publications.
  • Study how to create “buffer zones” between marijuana and hemp farms to avoid cross-pollination.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

  • Study the “presence of pathogens in hemp-based and hemp-blended products and their impact on the health and safety of consumers.”
  • Study whether hemp can be used as a substitute for health care industry products used to deliver, create, store or administer prescription drugs.

Small Business Administration

  • Develop guidance manuals for individuals interested in creating a small business, “which will focus on Native Hawaiians, Indian Tribes and veterans.”

U.S. Department of Defense

  • Study what items used by the DOD could be substituted with hemp.
  • Study the impact of using hemp and derivatives such as CBD “on military preparedness.”
  • Study the use of hemp as an “alternative to current health supplements with regard to the armed forces deployed in support of contingency operations, and its effect on preparedness, physical and mental health, and safety,” which includes active and non-active service members diagnosed with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
  • Study hemp’s potential to “clear contaminants from nuclear sites and heavy metal contamination.”

U.S. Department of Labor

  • Issue a report on the application of federal laws in states with hemp programs to “ensure the health and safety of individuals working in the hemp industry.”
  • Issue a report on the application of federal laws in states with hemp programs to “ensure fair, equitable and proper treatment of individuals working in the hemp industry.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  • Study how the cultivation of hemp can assist in weed control, reducing ecological damage, detoxifying carbon dioxide and preventing soil erosion.
  • Study how hemp can be used to “clear impurities in water, wastewater, sewage effluent and post-disaster relief due to flooding or animal waste.”
  • Study whether hemp could be used as a substitute for certain plastics and also research whether such a substitute could reduce “landfill waste and ocean pollution.”

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Study the the use of hempcrete for affordable and sustainable housing.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Study the potential benefits of hemp in the treatment of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, depression and anxiety among veterans.

Hemp could be big money for SLO County farmers. Did politicians scare away investors?

Now that SC farmers can grow industrial hemp, how well do you know your cannabis? 

San Luis Obispo County supervisors have passed a temporary ban on new industrial hemp crops, just six months after the federal Farm Bill legalized hemp and paved the way for U.S. farmers to cash in on the multibillion dollar industry.

The local decision is seen as a major setback by local farmers and industry analysts who saw the county as a potential leader of California’s growth in the global industry. They now fear that the county’s action will scare away national and international investors.

“The Farm Bureau is very concerned about the signal this sends to potential investors in the industry. It’s unfortunate that our farmers here will not be able to take advantage of this new crop that’s sweeping across the nation,” Brent Burchett, executive director of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau, said in a phone interview after the vote.

The Board of Supervisors voted four to one to pass an urgency ordinance that places a moratorium on industrial hemp to buy time to develop regulations for the crop, citing concerns over the potential impacts of odor to neighbors and cross-contamination with other crops, including commercial cannabis.

Local concerns and complaints about hemp came from residents who live next to potential or existing hemp crops. Several letters in support of the ordinance came from winery owners in Edna Valley in Supervisor Adam Hill’s district who are worried about the impact to quality of life and the value of their crops.

Hill voted with Supervisors Debbie Arnold, Lynn Compton and John Peschong to support the ordinance, saying that “a timeout is not the same as a ban.”

The moratorium does allow cultivation in the county to continue for research purposes and for existing registered crops approved before the moratorium. It does not, however, allow farmers who have not yet completed the application process to be approved.

As of June 18, the county had received 46 commercial grower applications and three commercial seed breeder applications. Sixteen of those have been approved, according to Marc Lea, assistant agricultural commissioner.

That means that farmers who do not already have approved hemp plants in the ground will miss out on this growing season and won’t be able to legally plant until the moratorium is lifted.

That won’t likely happen for several months, if not a year. While it’s a 45-day moratorium, supervisors will likely extend it multiple times as county staff negotiate the process of drafting and implementing new land use codes. Supervisors can extend the moratorium up to two years.

Hemp ban could mean financial loss

“It’s a real setback for agriculture in this county,” said Frank Brown, who operates an existing 300-acre hemp farm in North County.

He won’t be hurt by the ordinance, but he said, other “farmers started the process and were planning to grow and they have been hurt financially, significantly.”

He speculates that this year could have been a $200 million industry in San Luis Obispo County, with around one hundred million in investment in infrastructure.

Analysts say now is not the time for jurisdictions to pump the breaks on this industry. Hemp-derived CBD is a booming industry that has been estimated to be worth $22 billion by 2022, according to the Brightfield Group.

Hemp is different than cannabis in that it is non psychotropic. CBD products made from hemp are increasingly popular to relieve various health ailments. While hemp was a popular agricultural crop in America’s history — used for rope, cloth and paper — it was made illegal the same year as its demonized cousin, marijuana, in the 1930s.

With the legalization of hemp crops in December under the 2018 Farm Bill, many states are jumping at the chance to provide farmers a path to high-profit crops. Some paved the way by allowing research crops, allowed since the 2014 Farm Bill.

“People are looking to invest in processing, cultivation and the industry as a whole. These big players, national and international, are looking at California. We have the climate, we have the market,” said Jean Johnson, who has been tracking the market as California outreach director with VoteHemp.

The county led the state in hemp cultivation last year, she said, with hundreds of acres of the crop grown in research partnerships. That leading edge is now lost because of the supervisor’s vote.

“They’ve ruled out the current growing season, and they’re also potentially scaring away national and international investors,” Johnson said. “I have to say, I, along with many others, are surprised and disappointed. I would call it short-sighted.”

Do ‘we want to support small farmers, or not?’

Burchett saw the potential of hemp for farmers firsthand.

Before coming to the local Farm Bureau in February, he previously worked in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture overseeing the state’s industrial hemp program, which he said changed the opportunities for families to make a living on their farms.

“Anytime a new crop comes up, we should give farmers an opportunity to succeed. Hemp is one of the few crops that can make a small farm profitable,” Burchett said, adding that California is already behind several other states.

During the hearing, he warned supervisors about missing an opportunity.

“Let’s make a decision today if we want to support agriculture, if we want to support small farmers, or not?” he said.

Opponents of the ordinance agreed that the county needs regulations — and that they should have been drafted long ago. Many proposed creating a hemp working group to shape regulations while continuing to allow farmers to move forward with crops this year.

“We could have very easily started work today on regulations. What we got was a knee-jerk reaction that will set us back at least a year,” Burchett said.

Supervisors who voted for the moratorium did express optimism about the industry, locally.

Arnold said she does think that hemp “has a bright future here,” and Peschong said he didn’t believe a moratorium “is going to kill the industry.”

“We can take a time out and the industry can keep going,” Peschong said.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson was the lone vote against the ordinance, stating that he did not see any justification for urgency because the board does “not have evidence of harm to health, welfare or safety,” as is required for an urgency ordinance.

“We have a lot of speculation and fear, perhaps not surprising, but I don’t think it’s a good basis upon which to pass an ordinance,” Gibson said, adding that the process used was a “stretching of the urgency ordinance procedure, if not outright abuse.”

Content from: https://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/business/article231695808.html.

Molecular geneticist seeks to improve industrial hemp cultivation

Enthusiastic by nature, Gerry Berkowitz, professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, is bursting with even more excitement than usual about his latest area of research and teaching. For decades, Berkowitz has done groundbreaking work, applying molecular genetics in seeking to understand aspects of plant biology. He has now turned his attention to the cultivation of industrial hemp.

Hemp, a strain of the Cannabis plant low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the well-known cannabinoid that produces psychoactive effects, produces another cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive effects but does have great potential for medical use. Berkowitz has nearly two acres of the unimpressive-looking plant growing in Storrs and a green light to do all he and his students can to unlock the potential for a pharmaceutical breakthrough.

Berkowitz’s excitement stems from the potential he sees in the plant, the interest his students can barely contain and the possibilities for additional funding and patenting of products that may help people suffering from a variety of maladies, including epilepsy.

The path to this research has been long and convoluted. For more than sixty years it was illegal to grow hemp in Connecticut. Then, in 2014, Connecticut passed a law that legalized the cultivation of hemp with less than 0.3 percent THC content. Two years earlier, in 2012, the Cannabis genome was sequenced, paving the way for scientists to gain some insight into the genes encoding every enzyme in the plant.

UConn hemp research in Connecticut“Gene sequencing was the watershed event. It allows scientists to go light years beyond what was known. This is really exciting, especially with a plant that needs to be studied further. There are very few published papers, perhaps only ten or so, on the horticulture and molecular genetics of the plant in terms of producing the cannabinoids THC and CBD. With gene sequencing, we can look at the factors that affect THC and CBD production in the plant. We have a new perspective,” says Berkowitz.

The 2014 US Farm Bill, Section 7606, stated that “institutions of higher education or a state department of agriculture may grow or cultivate industrial hemp if the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research.”

Key tobacco-producing states saw hemp cultivation as an alternative crop and federal legislation was passed to promote it. Berkowitz developed a proposal to study the horticulture and genetics of hemp with the goal of increasing the knowledge base about the plant, which he submitted to a Connecticut enterprise that is growing medical marijuana. He worked with the University administration and venture capitalists to secure grant funding for a research project in his lab. The project was funded for $200,000. In a separate project with a second company, two acres of hemp were planted at the department’s research farm so that the researchers might learn about field production of hemp, which had to up that point been grown in Connecticut only in greenhouses, and about how best to extract CBD from the plant.

Berkowitz and his graduate student Philip Estrin hypothesize that plant hormones used for ripening bananas may affect the gene that controls CBD production in hemp. Berkowitz also is working to clone the Cannabis CBD gene. Recent studies have shown that genetically engineered yeast can efficiently produce plant compounds using glucose as a starter, and Berkowitz sees this as a possible method for producing CBD.

“It’s exciting to think that it may be possible to produce CBD as cheaply as making beer in fermentation tanks by using yeast and glucose. This work may lead to creation of an important pharmaceutical for people at a low cost,” he says.

“I’m not a physician, but there are many reports about the efficacy of CBD in treating seizures. That’s not my field, but there is plenty of interest in CBD and the generation of new information about it may be a good investment.

For the field production effort at the research farm, hemp seed costing $7,000 was planted. The resulting plants were high in CBD and low in THC, and the harvested crop is valued at more than $200,000 per acre, based on the value of the CBD that can be extracted from it.

When the hemp is ripe, small yellow hairs called trichomes growing on the female flowers fill up with cannabinoids (in this case CBD). The flowers are hand harvested with scissors. The CBD is extracted through the use of liquid CO2 or other solvents, a process Berkowitz is studying now with the goal of improving it.

Working with Berkowitz and Estrin are other graduate students in the department: Jonathan Mahoney, Lorenzo Katin-Grazzini and Cora McGehee from the labs of faculty colleagues Mark Brand, Yi Li and Rosa Raudales. They are interested in using tissue culture, hydroponics and other processes to grow hemp and engineer it for more efficient extraction of CBD.

Says Berkowitz, “There is so much undergraduate interest. It is an open field and the students are excited about it. I imagine that whether it is federal funding or venture capital, this area will be supported. I hope to see undergraduates to postdocs play a big part. No one has published about the plant physiology of Cannabis. I’m learning right along with the students. I hope we can plant a flag and develop a reputation in this area.”

Content from: https://naturally.uconn.edu/2018/01/16/molecular-geneticist-seeks-to-improve-industrial-hemp-cultivation/.

Louisiana Gov. Signs Hemp Bill Into Law

Louisiana Governor signs hemp bill into lawOn Thursday June 6th, House Bill 491 was signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards making Louisiana the 44th hemp state. Farmers will be able to begin growing hemp in 2020 after state agriculture officials finalize hemp growing regulations.
While the bill did help Louisiana farmers, the state is putting limits on the kinds of CBD products that can be sold. CBD products must be sold as food or cosmetics and not “marketed as a dietary supplement.” CBD retailers will be required to obtain licenses from the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, and those licenses will come with limits on the kinds of legal hemp products they can sell. The bill also prohibits the sale of smokable hemp. These restrictions are unfortunate and we hope to work with businesses in the state to educate legislators and improve the regulations in the next legislative session.