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NC Hemp Industry Demands Green-Light from DEA

Hemp can be used to make fabrics, building materials and a variety of other products. (Betty B/flickr.com)
Hemp can be used to make fabrics, building materials and a variety of other products. (Betty B/flickr.com)
May 1, 2017

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- North Carolina is poised to become a leader in a growing agribusiness - and all that’s standing in the way is the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Since 2014, states have been permitted to start pilot programs for hemp production. They've seen success in other southern states, including Tennessee and Kentucky, but the movement is stalled in the Tar Heel State.

It's prompting the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission to ask the state Attorney General to impose a restraining order on the DEA to prevent them from prosecuting farmers who want to import hemp seed to the state.

"The DEA has not played ball,” said Brian Bullman, co-founder of the Carolina Hemp Company. "The North Carolina Hemp Commission has sought a temporary restraining order via the Attorney General on the DEA to stop the DEA from interfering with anyone importing seed from a domestic or international source."

Farmers were prohibited by federal law from cultivating industrial hemp for nearly 80 years, in part because it comes from the same plant family as marijuana. Hemp is a strain of cannabis bred specifically for fiber that's used in clothing, construction, oils and other products that don't involve intoxication.

Asheville is home to the first house made entirely of hemp.

Bullman said the hemp industry is poised to grow, and North Carolina can either participate or watch other states take advantage of the economic benefits.

"The environment, the temperament here in North Carolina, is perfect for growing hemp. Outdoor crops can see as many as two crops per season,” he said. "The southeast will be, undoubtedly, the epicenter for the industrial hemp space, just because of our environment here."

Every year, $300 million in hemp products are imported to the U.S. from China and Canada. Some estimate hemp could become a billion dollar industry in North Carolina over the next decade.

North Carolina is one of 31 states that already passed legislation allowing farmers to cultivate hemp, but it requires the DEA to sign off on the program.

More information is available at NCAGR.gov/hemp.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC