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AG Department changes could lead to more hemp grows in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY – The state is making changes that could clear the way for farmers to team with laboratories to grow industrial hemp.

Before proponents of medical marijuana get too excited, experts point out this is not a drug. “Industrial hemp is not marijuana, and, this, in no way has a relationship with the medical marijuana debate,” according to Senior Policy Analyst Melissa Ure.

“Industrial hemp is not marijuana, and, this, in no way has a relationship with the medical marijuana debate,” Senior Policy Analyst Melissa Ure says.

The changes that were made within the department would change who would be allowed to grow hemp for research purposes.  Ure says their previous guidelines limited the kinds of groups that could be licensed to grow hemp to essentially just universities.

“Recently, universities haven’t expressed a great deal of interest in doing so, but, there are research and development companies that I believe would like to do some research on this,” Ure says.

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The research could range to all sorts of things, from finding ways to extract hemp oils, to finding better ways to grow the plant.  However, before anyone can get a license, they would have to show the department specifically what they’re researching.  Plus, the hemp will be destroyed if it has levels of THC that are too high.

“Before they harvest, we go in and we test it all.  We make sure it comes under that.  If it goes over, they cannot use it,” Ure says.

She adds that the THC in industrial hemp will be so low, no one can get high from it.

These changes have not been made official yet. They still have to go through another state agency and a public comment period before they’re adopted. Ure believes the changes may take effect between October and January.

(Photo Credit: ShutterStock)