The 2018 Farm Bill gave the go ahead for producers to grow industrial hemp.
Despite living in an age of instant information, that news is taking a while to reach some people.
An Oregon truck driver was arrested on Jan. 24 and faced spending the rest of his life in prison for transporting hemp.
State law enforcement claimed the cargo contained almost 7,000 pounds of what was considered marijuana, even if the cargo contained less than the federal legal limit for THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Hemp contains little of the substance.
Maybe it was state agencies’ reluctance to let go of what they were, at the time, calling the biggest bust in their history, but it was four days before the driver was released.
Last week, charges were dropped against two men who were arrested in Osage County Oklahoma for transporting nine tons of hemp. Prosecutors there too initially claimed it was high-THC marijuana. The two men were released after tests proved otherwise.
In Ohio, highway patrol troopers seized 55 gallons of CBD oil — an oil derived from hemp plants.
Hemp, which was previously under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice, is now regulated under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The plant has multiple uses. Getting high from it is not one of them. The flowers and seeds can be processed into CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating compound found in marijuana and hemp. The stalks can be processed for fiber to make paper, cloth, rope, wood-like material or hemp concrete.
A little closer to home, confusion comes in more benign but baffling forms.
When Ted Galaty, who runs Hemp Maze Minnesota, was trying to promote a Minnesota Department of Agriculture informational forum on industrial hemp, Facebook blocked the post due to violating its "illegal products" policy.
Even if some agencies and policies aren’t keeping up, the hemp industry is on the rise, and Minnesota has a head start.
In 2014, President Obama signed a farm bill that allowed farmers to grow hemp under USDA and state supervision. Minnesota was one of 30 states to follow by allowing hemp cultivation projects.
Before federal hemp legalization in 2018, 41 Minnesota growers were authorized to cultivate hemp on about 1,200 acres under a state pilot program.
The new legal status of hemp will now allow any prospective grower to cultivate the crop. Minnesota growers still have to submit cultivation plans to the USDA through the state Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
They must also demonstrate the product they plan to grow contains less than 0.3 percent THC.
Cultivators can now get loans for equipment or seeds and will be allowed to insure hemp crops under the Federal Crop Insurance Act — all of which they couldn’t legally do before the 2018 farm bill. Growers should also be able to transport their crop across state lines — regardless of some misguided state law enforcement policies.