A Washington State Department of Agriculture representative will discuss the agricultural possibilities of hemp during the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum.
Jessica Allenton, assistant director of the department’s commodity inspection division, will cover industrial hemp regulations, the application and licensing process and how the new Farm Bill will impact the hemp program and commercial production of industrial hemp in the state. Changes would still be required in state law to transition from a research-based program to a more commercialized hemp program under the bill, Allenton said.
“We receive a lot of inquiries about the program, from folks interested in growing a couple plants to larger-scale farmers wanting to transition their orchard to a hemp farm,” Allenton said. “We also have a lot of folks wanting information who are interested in processing hemp.”
The state has nine licensees — two growers, four processors and three combination grower-processor licensees.
Industrial hemp and marijuana are varieties of cannabis that developed due to selective breeding, Allenton said. Industrial hemp was bred for its fiber and seed oil while marijuana was bred for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical responsible for most of the plant’s psychological effects.
Federal and state law require industrial hemp to contain less than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis.
State regulations do not allow growing or processing industrial hemp for cannabidiol, or CBD, a cannabis compound. Applicants need to ensure their growing area is not within 4 miles of a Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board-approved marijuana producer.
Allenton advises farmers to research available varieties before deciding which they want to plant.
“This is especially important (because) if their field or greenhouse tests over 0.3 percent THC, it no longer meets the definition of industrial hemp, which could result in the destruction of the crop,” she said.
Raw industrial hemp plant material or viable seeds cannot cross state lines, Allenton said. This may limit processing options to only processors licensed by the WSDA.
Allenton hopes those who attend her conference would leave with an understanding of the program and its long-term goals based on the new Farm Bill.