In April of 2015, the federal government informed the Tennessee Department of Agriculture that the latter's application to import hemp seed had been approved. It was a big step forward in the state's move toward a revival of industrial hemp production.
The seed will be used for a pilot program comprising 2100 acres farmed by 53 applicants. This is, emphatically, not a case of legalizing weed, but the production of hemp for its fibers.
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There are many varieties of cannabis sativa, and the type used for rope, cloth, and other useful products won't get you high no matter how much of it you smoke. Unfortunately for the country's once-thriving industrial hemp sector, all varieties of the plant were swept up in the net of "reefer madness," and so hemp, a mainstay of the world economy in the days of the sailing ships, had been forbidden in the U.S. since around the end of World War II.
In 2014, as The Tennessean noted
, "The Tennessee General Assembly ... passed a law that legalized strains of low-THC varieties of cannabis, as well as the measure to start a licensing program."
So hemp, which had been grown in the U.S. since shortly after the initial European settlements, may be coming back to Tennessee. Here are five facts about the program:
1. Certified seeds required
You can't plant the seeds of your choice, for obvious reasons. Farmers must use certified seed, which, according to the state Department of Agriculture
, is not presently available in Tennessee. State agents will be testing all crops to verify that they are indeed industrial varieties low in THC.
2. Keep it close to home
State regulations require that the hemp produced be processed within Tennessee, but notes that the government has no idea how many processing plants will exist at harvest time.
3. Keep it home-grown
Only residents of the state, or businesses with a headquarters or branch office in Tennessee, can apply to grow hemp.
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4. Small farmers welcome
There is no minimum acreage requirement to apply to the program. However, all fields, no matter how small, require a state permit.
5. You're on your own for marketing
There is no marketing program; farmers will have to make their own deals with producers of fibers, fabrics, oil, food products, and the many other products hemp can be made into.
So it's just a start, but Tennessee does seem ready to revive an industry that had been part of the state's economy since the early 1800s.
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