More than a dozen states have recently passed laws governing the growing of hemp as an industrial crop. The most recent Farm Bill plowed the way for this cousin of cannabis to return to American fields. It’s billed as an eco-friendly wonder crop that can be used for food, fabric or even fuel. In Tennessee, farmers are stoked about the possibility of planting hemp and reviving an age-old cash crop. But they’re not quite as excited about following all the rules.
“We are for raising this industrial hemp,” said June Griffin at a recent hearing on the state’s new hemp regulations. “Every man under his own fig tree, the Bible said. And we are for being left alone that we might be able to market our products.”
Each state is coming up with its own regulations. Tennessee’s rules include a minimum $250 annual permit and providing authorities GPS coordinates of each field.
Linda Albright, who owns a farm south of Nashville, says it sounds like a huge overkill.
“We’ve been growing tobacco and corn and soy and all of this for years and years,” she said. “We’ve never had to apply for a license to grow it. We’ve never had to tell them what we’re going to do with it, where it’s going to be distributed.”
While hemp is harmless, the plant happens to look exactly like marijuana. The primary difference separating the two is the level of THC – the active chemical that makes pot a drug that’s still illegal in most states. Tennessee’s regulations would allow inspectors to enter fields at any time for any reason, and the farmer would have to pick up the $35-an-hour tab.
Growers would even have to notify authorities two days ahead of transporting their crop. But Harold Jarboe says he doesn’t mind.
“We cannot have an industry here if we don’t invite law enforcement in and make them a part of the process,” Jarboe said. “Because if I’m hauling 50 pounds of hemp tops up to the juice company to be juiced and I get pulled over, I can’t have my crop confiscated while they figure out whether its legal or not.”
Jarboe says there will be a cup of coffee waiting for any law enforcement agent who wants to stop by his farm.
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