Hemp legislation passes, rules are next

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Growing hemp in Ohio got a big push from the state legislature July 17 as the General Assembly sent Senate Bill 57 to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk for his signature. SB 57 creates a hemp cultivator license as well as a hemp processing license program to be administered by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The House voted 88-3 to pass the hemp legalization bill. The House also voted to include an emergency clause, which was needed in part so farmers could plant hemp as soon as possible. The Senate agreed to the bill and the emergency clause and overwhelmingly passed the hemp legislation as well.

Before the hemp program can be fully operational in Ohio, rules still need to be developed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the state program sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its approval. However, this legislation is a positive step forward.

“Ohio Farm Bureau views hemp production in Ohio as a good opportunity for farmers to diversify their crop options, and we look forward to working with Ohio Department of Agriculture on the new program,” said Tony Seegers, OFBF director of state policy.

Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) told Hannah News Service that hemp could be a huge cash crop for Ohio farmers and it grows almost anywhere using little or no fertilizer. He also noted its wide range of uses, including for food, clothing, nutritional supplements, manufacturing and paper.

When voting for the legislation, several lawmakers noted that the significant challenges farmers have faced in the past year.

“It’s been a terrible year with the tariffs that have been added from the federal government, as well as the rain that’s been unpredictable,” House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) told Hannah News Service. “We know that the hemp industry is a growing industry where there is a lot of opportunity for farmers to grow their businesses, literally and figuratively. We hope that many people take advantage of it.”

Hemp or marijuana

Hemp, now legal in Ohio, and its illegal cousin marijuana are species of cannabis, but they have different properties. Marijuana contains much more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than hemp. THC is the part of a cannabis plant that can cause a psychoactive effect in certain concentrations, but hemp plants generally do not contain enough THC to produce a “high” and its properties can be used in a large variety of products.