Colonial farmers were required by England to grow hemp. It was used to make rope, cloth, and oil for lamps. It was valued for its fast growth and abundant production. Hemp was even used for legal tinder and to pay taxes. In John Lawson’s A New Voyage to Carolina published in 1709 hemp is mentioned several times an important crop.
In 1937 the marihuana tax act was enacted, imposing a tax on the sale of cannabis, hemp, or hemp and marijuana. It did not make these substances illegal, but made it illegal to sell, deal, or possess marijuana without registering with the Internal Revenue Service and paying a special occupational tax. Failure to do so risked the penalties of paying up to $2000 and five years in prison.
In the 1940s the government reconsidered and began to urge farmers, even 4-H clubs, to grow industrial hemp for the war effort. Other fiber sources were in short supply because of World War II. The fiber was used to make rope for the Navy and cloth for making parachutes.
Once the war was over hemp was returned to its previous status. The Controlled Substance Act in 1970 made it illegal to grow/manufacture, possess, sell, import and distribute all forms of cannabis, including industrial hemp.
In 2014 under section 7606 of the Agricultural Act the growing and cultivating of industrial hemp for research purposes in the United States became legal where such growth and cultivation is legal under State law. So far, North Carolina has joined 13 other states in legalizing growing hemp – under strict conditions.
The North Carolina General Assembly passed Senate Bill 313 in 2015 to allow the Industrial Hemp Commission to develop rules and licensing to stay within the Federal laws. Temporary rules were reviewed and approved in 2017.
Industrial hemp has less THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive chemical in cannabis, but otherwise there is little difference. Both marijuana and industrial hemp are from the same plant species and look the same. The only way to tell the difference is by chemical analysis.
To participate in the NC hemp pilot program farmers must apply for and obtain a hemp permit/license from the Industrial Hemp Commission. Once the NC application is approved licensed holders must pay an initial fee of $250. They must also pay an annual fee of $250 for 49 acres and under, $500 for 50 acres or more. License holders must also pay an additional $2/acre or $2/square foot of greenhouse where applicable. The holder is responsible for all costs and fees for their project. If a sample test for THC is done, they must pay the fee for that.
Industrial hemp must have less than 0.3% THC, the chemical that causes one to get high. If a farmer’s hemp tests higher they will lose their license. Farmers will not be notified ahead of time that their hemp will be tested. Stresses like drought, flooding, heat, cold, too much fertilizer and not enough fertilizer can cause spikes in THC. Ways to prevent spikes are explained in this bulletin by NC State Extension. https://industrialhemp.ces.ncsu.edu/2018/11/hemp-production-keeping-thc-levels-low/
Quality hemp starts with quality seeds. NC Cooperative extension has a page on their website providing seed resources: https://industrialhemp.ces.ncsu.edu/seed-sources-for-planting/. Hemp is drought resistant but may need irrigation at various times. As with any planting, have the soil tested and that will tell you if you need to add anything to the soil. Spacing is important and varies on whether you are growing for fiber which comes from the stems or the oil which comes from the buds on the top of the plant. Some growers are using greenhouses and high tunnels for medicinal CBD oil production. Read more at: https://growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu/2017/08/industrial-hemp-is-north-carolinas-newest-crop/ Seeds are sown in fields with small grain drills. Harvesting small plots and greenhouses may be done by hand, larger fields are harvested mechanically.
NC hemp growers are still finding their way; those who have already grown hemp in test programs seem to be having success. NC Cooperative Extension refers inquiries to the cultivation of hemp to http://hemp.ca.uky.edu/
While we don’t know the extent of the economic benefits of industrial hemp to North Carolina because we’ve only just begun, but the outlook is good. Nationwide, US sales of hemp products reached $820 million in 2017. NC growers are required to conduct research on the production, harvesting, processing and marketing of hemp products. As the industry grows so will related businesses and hemp jobs. Right now, NC hemp isn’t covered by crop insurance. It is hoped that will soon change as hemp has officially been declared a legal commodity by the Federal government.
Look for more information coming soon on hemp stores, hemp farms, hemp jobs, hemp oil, seeds, permits and NC hemp processing.
NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has downloadable forms and applications as well as a great deal of information on how to become an industrial hemp grower. https://www.ncagr.gov/hemp/
Read more at NC State Extension https://industrialhemp.ces.ncsu.edu/industrial-hemp-pilot-research-program/
NC Department of Agriculture has offered field days and workshops to help education potential NC Hemp Farmers in how to grow and market their crops. https://industrialhemp.ces.ncsu.edu/ posts events and articles to keep hemp farmers informed.
NC Industrial Hemp Association https://www.ncindhemp.org/growers/?fbclid=IwAR0jEw9WdOp61w1tI1SGHPr7pSf6c6PkfcQlbu75cSGpqfb0jTAz-ANDL0k
Hemp for Victory https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3rolyiTPr0
Statement of principles on industrial hemp https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/08/12/2016-19146/statement-of-principles-on-industrial-hemp
Hemp Stores in NC https://thehempstorenc.com/
Industrial Hemp Production in NC | Legacy Farms and Ranches of NC