Nebraska Gearing Up For Hemp Renaissance

Hemp in Nebraska
Image: Matteo Paganelli

Nebraska’s not wasting any time on getting started on ramping up its hemp industry after the state’s plan received the all-clear from the USDA just a few days ago.

As we mentioned yesterday, USDA recently announced the latest states to have their plans approved – Delaware, Nebraska and Texas.

Nebraska’s Department of Agriculture (NDA) is keen to get cranking.

“Now that NDA has an approved state hemp plan in place, we can begin issuing licenses for the commercial cultivation, processing, handling and brokering of industrial hemp in Nebraska,” said NDA Director Steve Wellman.

The NDA isn’t mucking around –  license applications for the 2020 growing season will be available on the NDA website from next Monday.

Only half an acre of the crop was legally cultivated in Nebraska in 2018 – and that occurred at the University of Nebraska. But in late May 2019, Governor Pete Ricketts signed a bill into law enabling farmers to grow industrial hemp as an alternative crop for the purposes of fiber, grain, or cannabidiol (CBD).

Due to various factors, just 10 grower licenses were granted for research purposes in 2019 out of 176 applications. It’s not clear how much was cultivated in total, but some of the applicants were only trialing very small plots – as little as an acre. 2020 will see a much higher rate of participation and acreage under cultivation.

In December, NDA lodged the state’s plan for hemp with the USDA for review, so the turnaround time has been around 5 – 6 weeks.

Nebraska’s approved hemp plan can be viewed here.

While Governor Ricketts supports hemp, those seeing it as the thin edge of the wedge towards adult-use and medical marijuana legalization in the state have another thing coming. He seems pretty adamant it simply won’t happen on his watch.

“I firmly oppose legislative legalization and will veto any legislation that attempts to make marijuana use lawful in the Cornhusker State,” said the Governor earlier this week.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, legislation (LB 110) sponsored by Sen. Anna Wishart to create a “sensible and compassionate medical marijuana program” for the state was left hanging after Nebraska’s unicameral legislature adjourned in 2019 without taking action on it.