The NC Senate passed the North Carolina Farm Bill of 2019 by a 31-14 vote. The Senate Bill 315 officially legitimizes statewide hemp farming, among various other things. The bill also provides official guidelines to regulate and administer hemp farming.
The US government removed hemp from its Controlled Substances Act list in 2018. The historic step effectively legalized the non-psychoactive cannabis plant to bring laws governing hemp production in the US in line with much of the world. However, each state was required to adopt its own rules for regulation purposes as well as licensing growers and manufacturers.
North Carolina Eyes Hemp Industry Expansion
The legislation is designed to develop North Carolina’s fast-growing hemp industry further as well as to increase agritourism. It will also make it easier for industrial-scale hog farms to take effective control of the open-air waste storage systems.
Congress previously permitted only small-scale hemp pilot programs, with North Carolina adopting them successfully. However, the 2018 Federal Farm Bill enables for wide-scale hemp production. The states, yet, have to adopt stringent licensing and enforcement standards to implement regulations to license hemp growers and to closely monitor the THC levels in the products.
According to the field experts, Senate Bill 315 is a big deal for agriculture across the United States and North Carolina. North Carolina is sure to set an example for the entire country as no rules exist, says the senior researcher at the libertarian Reason Foundation, Geoffrey Lawrence. Lawrence has enjoyed the position of policy analyst for the John Locke Foundation. Right now, he is a consultant on hemp farming to lawmakers around the country.
Hemp, North Carolina’s Next Cash Crop
Members of North Carolina’s hemp industry firmly believe that hemp would be the next cash crop for the state as the plant shows to be a more than $100 million industry. Bob Crumley, the chairman and founder of the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Association, had previously stated that hemp has a lot of promise in North Carolina. It is because the plant was the state’s real cash crop before tobacco. Now, with the legalization of hemp, it gives farms the opportunity to return to that use. According to Crumley, soon hemp will rival tobacco.
The senator Brent Jackson bases North Carolina’s economic prosperity on its industrious farmers and agriculture. He further calls them the driving force that will continue to lead them in the future. The bill ensures it, said Jackson as hemp farming is a potential boom industry. The senator also said that the NC Farm Act of 2019 gives the state the opportunity to be a pioneer in the hemp industry.
N.C Hemp Commission On Licensing
North Carolina has a well-elaborated hemp pilot program. However, Senate Bill 315, expands the pilot project by amending the North Carolina Hemp Commission to advance as a regulatory body. The Commission sets forth qualifications for hemp production licensees (including prohibitions on licenses to people with past drug offenses). The bill also features guidelines for licensing and clearly describes the civil and criminal penalties. The explanation of penalties is for people who break the state law regarding hemp farming. The state law makes it obligatory for the retailers to obtain a license before selling any cannabinoid (CBD) products. These products can range from oils, lotions, medicines, and edibles.
The bill also initiates a task force including law enforcers and regulators to meet quarterly to work out policy matters and concerns. The biggest challenge is the impossible differentiation between legit hemp and illicit marijuana without testing for accurate THC levels. It is because officers do not have access to the technology to conduct such kind of testing during routine roadside stops.
Debate On Smokable Hemp
The bill also proposes a ban on smokable hemp in December 2020. The proposal has received a lot of attention during committee debates. Smokable hemp does not produce the ‘high effect.’ However, it looks and smells like marijuana. And according to law enforcement, it is a problem. However, the general sentiment is against the ban as any hemp growers in the state have spoken up against the ban previously. According to the hemp farmers, the smokable plant can sell for as much as $1,000 per pound.
Hemp is a safe cannabis plant, unlike marijuana plant, which also comes from the cannabis plant family. Therefore, hemp is often treated as being related to marijuana, the psychoactive cannabis plant with high THC levels. However, Senator Brent Jackson makes it clear with his statement saying that no one is trying to legitimize marijuana. Jackson is the bill’s primary sponsor and says that it is all about hemp as the plant’s uses stretch beyond the mere CBD oil. This environment-friendly plant can boost many industries, including paper, rope, building, and cloth.