North Carolina’s 2022 Farm Act, which advanced this week, would firmly establish the legality of industrial hemp, legislators say.
First, the Act, introduced in the Senate Tuesday, would remove hemp from the state’s controlled substances list, a change that is necessary because hemp has been legal in the state only under a pilot hemp program started in 2017 that ends July 1. It would also set the official level for THC that defines hemp from marijuana at 0.3%.
Both provisions would bring the state into alignment with federal rules after the legalization of hemp as a result of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.
The North Carolina government chose not to organize a state program for hemp production, leaving growers to operate directly under the U.S. Department of Agriculture beginning this year.
State Sen. Michael Lee, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the measure needs to progress quickly to avert problems for hemp farmers on July 1.
“It should move pretty fast in the Senate,” Lee told WECT TV, Wilmington. Lee said he expects the draft bill to be in committee this week and on the floor of the Senate by the end of next week. Sentiment toward the changes in the House of Representatives is difficult to judge, Lee said.
Passing the bill would protect millions of dollars in investments by industry stakeholders, said Sen. Brent Jackson, who is also a co-sponsor of the bill.
“In practical terms, we will maintain the status quo that we currently enjoy today and our growers and retailers have today,” he said.
North Carolina law agencies have pushed back against hemp legalization, suggesting it would cause confusion in the enforcement of marijuana laws. The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, an opponent in the past, said it has not yet reviewed the draft law, which must still pass a number of legislative committees in the Senate before getting a vote and then going to the House of Representatives.
Advocates in North Carolina have pushed hemp as a rotation crop, and as a replacement for declining tobacco fields.