Jun 15, 2016 9:05 AM

For the First Time Since WWII, Hemp Will Be Planted in West Virginia

After two years of developing regulations for a new hemp-growing project, the state officials finally allowed to grow hemp in West Virginia.

Not every volunteer can take part in the research project; every applicant will be checked carefully for their background in order to get the license to participate. Dave Hawkins and Jim Leach are among those who have already been approved by the officials to grow three kinds of hemp. The state Department of Agriculture has already sent the seeds to Leach, who will plant them on a 30- by 90-foot plot of land on his property in Vienna, which lies along the Ohio River.

Hawkins, owner of Mother Earth Foods in Parkersburg, a company that provides organic foods, vitamins, and herbs, has also received the seeds of hemp which he is going to plant in his half-acre garden in Wood County.

Apart from recreational or medicinal cannabis, hemp is used for industrial purposes, such as making clothing, paper, plastics, cosmetics, rope, and others. It also can be used as food and food supplements.

J. Morgan Leach, son of Jim Leach, is the executive director of the West Virginia Hemp Farmers Cooperative. According to him, hemp was an extremely popular crop back in times before the World War II began. At that time, hemp canvas covered the wagons all over America; this crop was even named the next billion dollar crop by Popular Science Magazine. Unfortunately, it was then outlawed in 1938.

The growers licensed by the Agriculture Department to grow hemp will have to send the samples to check the level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical compound that is responsible for the “high” effect) in the crop, as it should not be higher than federally mandated 0.3 percent. So even though hemp looks very similar to recreational marijuana, it cannot provide the same drug effect due to the lack of the THC component.

This project is going to be the first time hemp is planted officially in West Virginia since WWII. The state will let the local law enforcement officials know where exactly the plots with legally grown hemp lie.

So far, this project focuses on the research side but in future, it is believed the Department of Agriculture will assist the product development, so that hemp can be used for the remediation of the land. Moreover, Morgan Leach thinks that this project will give an opportunity to former coal miners and veterans to take part in hemp production.

It seems that this is the time when hemp industry finally is able to move forward. Back in March 2016, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a bill that would have allowed individuals to grow industrial hemp. This time, when hemp seeds have already being distributed to the licensed growers, hemp has all the potential to became a commodity crop that helps the state's economy.

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