Utah Farmers now have the rules and regulations in place to grow industrial hemp. Lawmakers in this year’s legislative session passed two bills giving the Department of Agriculture and Food the task of organizing an industrial hemp program for local producers.
Three years ago the farm bill allowed pilot programs to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. Scott Erickson, deputy commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food said now anyone over the age of 18 who purchases a license from the state can grow the plant. The regulations for growers, processors and labeling were released this week.
“This is low THC cannabis, industrial hemp, that can be used for cosmetics, used in oils, used in medical-type products, or it’s used for fiber and those types of products as well,” Erickson said.
The THC has to be below .3 percent and that will be tested by officials from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food before each harvest.
“If it’s above .3 THC the products would have to be destroyed,” Erickson said. “We’ll determine how that happens on a case-by-case basis.”
Erickson said industrial hemp plots can’t be within a thousand feet of schools and there needs to be a sign with a clear indication that the plants being grown are hemp, not marijuana.
“One of the fears that we had is that there would be some theft of the product with people thinking it’s marijuana that can get you high rather than industrial hemp that cannot,” Erickson said.
The difference between marijuana and hemp plants are impossible to identify side-by-side according to Erickson, but growers of both plants try to avoid each other’s products as much as possible. Cross-pollination brings THC levels down in marijuana and THC levels up in hemp, making the hemp illegal to sell.
Most processors interested in industrial hemp are already using similar products according to Erickson who said hemp processing and labeling will follow the code of federal regulations for manufactured food.
The state is required to make the rules and regulations available for public comment. The guidelines will go into effect October 15.