While not as much as Governor Wolf had hoped, it looks like Pennsylvania could potentially have nearly 30 times the number of industrial hemp acres under cultivation this growing season than it did in 2017.
State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced last week the Department of Agriculture approved 39 industrial hemp research applications for projects in 25 counties, which would total nearly a thousand acres if all participants complete the permitting process. It’s a big jump from the 36 acres grown last year.
“We’re pleased with the response and the enthusiasm around this promising and versatile crop,” said State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “And we’re especially pleased that so many of our first-year growers have committed to continue their research.”
However, the number of approved applications fell well short of what was possible. In December 2017, it was announced 50 individual growers or institutions of higher education would be permitted to grow up to 100 acres of industrial hemp each – so potentially 5,000 acres in total.
2017 was the first year in seven decades industrial hemp was (legally) cultivated and harvested in Pennsylvania. Prior to the 1950s/60s, industrial hemp was widely grown in the state.
“Hemp has a very long history in Pennsylvania and although it had been missing from the landscape for a generation, it has found new life in the commonwealth,” said Mr. Redding, who also wants to see loosening of regulation in the next Federal farm bill so the potential of the crop can be fully realised.
“Allowing research was a good first step, but the potential of this crop warrants the federal government allowing more extensive production. Legitimizing industrial hemp will give entrepreneurs the assurance they need to invest in this industry.”
Industrial hemp crops grown in the state must maintain a concentration of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) below 0.3 percent. This year, cannabidiol (CBD) and other extractions are allowed under the program. But according to the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, high-CBD seed sourcing has been problematic as participants still are not allowed to acquire seed from other states and locating international vendors willing to export to the US has been challenging.
In other recent cannabis news out of the state, Pennsylvania’s first medical cannabis dispensaries opened for business last week.