WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Hemp is now permanently legal in North Carolina and industry officials expect it will help expand industrial hemp across the state.
On Thursday, North Carolina Gov.Roy Cooper signed SB455 which removed hemp from the state's controlled substances act. The bill puts North Carolina in step with federal law in regards to hemp, which was federally legalized in 2018.
If the state bill had not been signed before June 30, hemp and the products made with the bill would have become illegal in North Carolina.
Blake Butler, the executive director of the Southeast Hemp Association said the bill could mean new opportunities for the hemp industry.
"There are some states in the southeast that aren’t that interested in hemp and there are others like North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia that are starting to reimagine the textile belt as we look at hemp fiber opportunities," said Butler.
Butler said the industrial hemp industry is going to see some changes over the next few years but they'd like to see new opportunities open up for farmers to grow the product and make a living.
"I’d like to see a three-year contract where a farmer could really grow a field of fiber and send it off for process and plant that next seed," Butler said. "I’d like to see us build up that agricultural supply chain like it’s been done in sweet potatoes and tobacco and other places. So that’s really the goal is to start diversifying and be very very smart, when we do, to make sure the money is there to compensate the farmer."
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Adam Ivers, the CEO of Apothecary and Co. LLC is thankful the bill passed but said the confusion between marijuana and hemp has made the effort to keep hemp legal more difficult.
"I feel like keeping him legal in North Carolina has been an uphill battle since the beginning of it," said Ivers.
Ivers' hemp retail store in Winston-Salem, Longlead Provisions, sells a wide array of hemp products, including CBD-infused items.
CBD or cannabidiol comes from the hemp plant. Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis but have their differences. Marijuana is still illegal federally and in North Carolina; it has more THC,(tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive substance. Hemp, on the other hand, has more CBD. THC and CBD are cannabinoids but CBD does not have the psychoactive properties that THC does. Under North Carolina state law, hemp is defined as containing no more than 0.3% THC.
Ivers said with hemp permanently legalized, it could give tobacco farms in North Carolina some new life.
"With North Carolina being such an agricultural state, (the new law) is going to give the investors and the businesses the confidence to come in and help revitalize some of these tobacco farms and things like that just aren’t seeing the success that they used to."
Both Butler and Ivers said there is going to be more exploration into the uses of industrial hemp going forward.
"Seeing (Governor Cooper) sign that bill the other day and helping us continue to move on in our industry and continue to progress is a huge thing," Ivers said.