North Carolina passed a law allowing for the regulated cultivation of industrial hemp October 31, 2015. Once a commission created by SB313
establishes the guidelines for the hemp program, landowners will be allowed to produce and harvest cannabis sativa with less than 0.3% THC. (THC is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that creates mild euphoria.) The NC Department of Agriculture will be responsible for issuing licenses and distributing seeds to registered farmers. The law does not dictate a deadline for the commission to implement the industrial hemp program.
In the House, Republicans Dean Arp, Rick Catlin, Jimmy Dixon, Josh Dobson, Pat Hurley, Michele Presnell, and Rena Turner voted against the bill; no Democratic representatives voted No. In the Senate, only Republican Andrew Brock and Democrat Don Davis voted against the bill. The bill became law on October 31, 2015 without the signature of Pat McCrory. Per Governor McCrory:
“After discussion with Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, I have decided to allow Senate Bill 313 to become law without my signature. Despite the bill’s good intentions, there are legitimate concerns I would like to address… The legislation tasks a new commission to establish from the ground up a regulatory structure to reintroduce a crop to North Carolina. Although there is a clear intent to ensure this program supports agriculture and research goals, a strong regulatory framework to safeguard against abuse is critical to its success and the safety of North Carolinians.”
Industrial hemp will give North Carolina farmers another valuable cash crop to add to their repertoire, and could replace crops that have lost value in recent years, like tobacco. For those concerned, hemp is very different than marijuana, containing less than 0.3% THC, so it would be impossible to get “high” from industrial hemp. Various parts of the plant can be used in the manufacture of more than 25,000 products. The leaves and flowers can be used to make CBD medicines for patients with intractable epilepsy, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and sickle cell disease (in NC, CBD extracts are permitted only for patients with intractable epilepsy). The oil and seeds have high amounts of omega fatty acids, which help improve cholesterol levels and lower the risks of heart disease.
Hemp is a source of very strong natural fiber and highly nutritional seeds. The fiber is used in applications from paper to building products (such as Hempcrete) and the seeds are used for oil production and consumption. The core of the plant is highly absorbent, and can be used to absorb oil spills and to maintain the seals on water, gas and oil drills.
The Bill would set up a Hemp Commission consisting of 5 members. These members include the Commissioner of Agriculture or a designee, an appointed municipal chief of police, an elected sheriff, a faculty member of a state university who teaches Ag science, and a full time farmer with 10 years of experience. The commission will be in charge of setting up tracking and testing procedures and studying marketplace opportunities. Farmers will pay an annual fee of $250 + $2 per acre, with possible incentive provisions for small acreage to promote small farmers. NC State and NC A & T will have research programs since they currently have highly developed agriculture programs.
Hemp, Inc. is currently building a commercial size decortication facility in Spring Hope, NC in Nash County. This is the first of its size in the US and one of 5 in the world. This sets NC up for being a major player in the hemp industry.