The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has just proposed rules for farmers wanting to grow hemp, and they’re pretty strict.
Some of the potential rules include requiring a $500 license, providing GPS coordinates of hemp fields, and being subject to random testing of THC levels, which should be at trace amounts compared to marijuana.
Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), who championed the bill at the Tennessee legislature, hopes the rules eventually lighten up.
“We had to make ‘em strict in order to get our foot in the door, to get started,” he says. “But as time goes on we can loosen those up. You know, in politics you gotta do what’s possible, and we did good to get what we got.”
Niceley successfully convinced lawmakers that hemp could be Tennessee’s next cash crop and that it wouldn’t necessarily lead to marijuana legalization.
Industrial hemp farming also faces issues at the federal level. Obama showed his support for limited hemp farming by signing of a bill earlier this year. Though the government turns a blind eye to marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington, they have recently made things difficult for hemp seed production in Kentucky, a state used as a model for Tennessee’s hemp law.
Hemp is often called marijuana’s cousin, since they are the same species and have a similar appearance. But hemp has lower levels of THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its psychoactive qualities. Under Tennessee’s proposed regulations, all hemp would need to be below a 0.3% THC level, but marijuana usually has a THC level of over 10%.
According to the Department of Agriculture, hemp can be made into more than 25,000 different products. Industry estimates predict that sales of hemp products may soon exceed more than $300 million a year in the United States.
The Department of Agriculture will begin taking applications to grow hemp in late 2014, and the growing season will start in 2015.