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“Ninety-five percent of North Carolina hemp crops are grown for their flowers,” Melton says. “CBD is widely acclaimed for use in addressing many aches, pains and mental disorders. However, there is little data supporting many of the claims.”

Is hemp the same thing as marijuana?

There’s been a lot of discussion about hemp recently, since the 2018 Farm Bill made it legal for farmers to grow industrial hemp for the first time since the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (or, practically speaking, since the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act).

There are still quite a few restrictions and regulations associated with growing hemp, but the fact that hemp is now legal – while marijuana is not – has raised a lot of questions.

NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and NC State Extension, are engaged in a variety of research and educational programs related to hemp. That puts us in a position to help answer some of the most common hemp questions.

What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Hemp and marijuana are, taxonomically speaking, the same plant; they are different names for the same genus (Cannabis) and species.

“Hemp and marijuana even look and smell the same,” says Tom Melton, deputy director of NC State Extension. “The difference is that hemp plants contain no more than 0.3 percent (by dry weight) of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive substance found in marijuana. By comparison, marijuana typically contains 5 to 20 percent THC. You can’t get high on hemp.”

In other words, Cannabis plants with 0.3 percent or less of THC are hemp. Cannabis plants with more than 0.3 percent THC are marijuana.

Is it now legal to grow hemp in North Carolina?

It is legal to grow hemp, but you must be licensed.

In North Carolina, licenses must be approved by the state’s Industrial Hemp Commission, which is affiliated with the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Licensed growers must abide by stringent regulations, including tests to ensure that the THC levels in any hemp remain at or below the limit of 0.3 percent.

Why is there interest in growing hemp?

In short, the answer is that farmers grow things for which there is a market – and there appears to be a market for industrial hemp.

“Many see industrial hemp as a rapidly growing industry and a way to replace losses in acreage or value in other commodities,” Melton says.

What are some benefits and uses of hemp?

Industrial hemp has many potential uses. Hemp fibers can be used in textiles or industrial processes. Hemp can also be used for grain, and the flowers are often used as a source for cannabidiol, a hemp extract also known as CBD.

“Ninety-five percent of North Carolina hemp crops are grown for their flowers,” Melton says. “CBD is widely acclaimed for use in addressing many aches, pains and mental disorders. However, there is little data supporting many of the claims.”

And the regulatory requirements related to CBD can be confusing.

Is growing hemp for CBD legal?

“Growing hemp for its flowers was already legal, prior to the 2018 Farm Bill, under the 2014 Farm Bill,” Melton says. “The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to have Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Programs, under which any part of the hemp plant could be produced by a licensed grower.

Put your seeds or starts in the ground in late spring and harvest in the fall. Weeds will be your biggest challenge. “We’ve weeded by hand, with machines, even with fire,” Gilkison says. Because, he says, he can’t use herbicides or pesticides on his hemp, Gilkison spends much of the growing season battling back pigweed, Johnson grass and crab grass. Prune the maturing plants to force them to produce more buds (some farmers use tobacco topping machines to mow the upper vegetation). Some growers in Kentucky have recently turned land over from tobacco to hemp. “Everywhere you look, it’s CBD this, CBD that,” Gilkison says. The money has been good, and a giddiness has taken hold, thanks to this plant that has been effectively prohibited since the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. “It’s the first time in our lives that we’ve had a new crop and had to learn how to grow it,” he says.

How to Grow Hemp

By Malia Wollan

    Feb. 14, 2019

“Sooner or later, somebody is going to make a joke about you getting high,” says Brennan Gilkison, a 42-year-old hemp farmer in central Kentucky who has no interest in getting high. For centuries, American farmers grew hemp for fiber, oil and many other uses. George Washington cultivated it at Mount Vernon to mend fishing nets. Gilkison’s crop goes into products containing cannabidiol, or CBD. People still titter. Practice your explainer, which should go something like this: Marijuana and hemp are varieties of the same species of cannabis plant, but hemp contains less than 0.3 percent of the mind-altering tetrahydrocannabinols, or THC, and will not get you high. “You become an educator,” he says. (Third graders visit his farm on field trips.)

Don’t sow any seeds until you’ve researched state and federal regulations. The 2018 Farm Bill contained provisions legalizing hemp production, but you still need a license to grow it. Plant in an inconspicuous location. Gilkison knows a farmer who lost much of his crop to thieves who, he suspects, were selling his hemp buds mixed with marijuana. “If you want something that’s going to yield good, put it on good ground,” he says. He prefers deep, humus-rich soil. Hemp seeds contain sex chromosomes that produce male and female plants. For CBD, you’ll want to keep only the more robust females. Either weed out the male seedlings or plant female-only clones.

Put your seeds or starts in the ground in late spring and harvest in the fall. Weeds will be your biggest challenge. “We’ve weeded by hand, with machines, even with fire,” Gilkison says. Because, he says, he can’t use herbicides or pesticides on his hemp, Gilkison spends much of the growing season battling back pigweed, Johnson grass and crab grass. Prune the maturing plants to force them to produce more buds (some farmers use tobacco topping machines to mow the upper vegetation). Some growers in Kentucky have recently turned land over from tobacco to hemp. “Everywhere you look, it’s CBD this, CBD that,” Gilkison says. The money has been good, and a giddiness has taken hold, thanks to this plant that has been effectively prohibited since the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. “It’s the first time in our lives that we’ve had a new crop and had to learn how to grow it,” he says.

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