If the proposal of hemp cultivation for scientific purposes is authorized in the near future, researchers in North Carolina will get the opportunity to study the marketing potential of industrial hemp.
The North Carolina House has tentatively approved a bill, according to which local universities will be granted land to cultivate industrial hemp through pilot programs. The state lawmakers backed the proposal as they were sure it would not influence cannabis manufacturing in North Carolina. Hemp advocates hope to start growing the crop next spring.
Industrial hemp looks very similar to marijuana but has a low content of the psychoactive cannabis compounds. However, this crop is full of nutritional chemicals and can be used for manufacturing clothing, rope, car parts, biodegradable plastics, and fuels.
The U.S. gave the green light to industrial hemp study back in 2014, and twenty-eight states have already adopted legislation for similar pilot programs. North Carolina legalized industrial hemp last year and has already established the Industrial Hemp Commission.
Currently, lawmakers are pushing the bill to expand the commission to nine members and give licensed growers an opportunity to carry out seed research, maintain plots, and investigate the markets for hemp products under the control of North Carolina A&T State University and North Carolina State University. The commission would have four additional members: one of them would be a university professor appointed by the governor, while the others would be agriculture professionals assigned by the state’s agriculture commissioner.
Though the university professors feel confident and encouraged by the new opportunities, some politicians like Rep. Charles Graham, a Lumberton Democrat, express concerns that some growers may try to illegally cultivate cannabis plants in the center of a hemp field. However, Rep. Mark Brody, a Monroe Republican and the proposal sponsor, assures that industrial hemp grows differently from marijuana plants, and any prohibited crops would be visible to police authorities. Moreover, cannabis experts do not recommend to plant marijuana and hemp together, as the latter can damage the potency of cannabis plants. Growers who try to cultivate marijuana on hemp fields or otherwise violate the hemp regulations would be subjected to fines up to $2,500.
The Industrial Hemp Association that supports the bill has already raised the necessary $200,000 in private donations to fund the North Carolina Hemp Commission. Brody believes that the cultivation of industrial hemp will both widen the employment opportunities for agricultural workers and improve the quality of economic activities in the state.