Industrial Hemp Pilot Program in North Carolina
For centuries, industrial hemp (plant species Cannabis sativa) has been a source of fiber and oilseed used worldwide to produce a variety of industrial and consumer products. Currently, more than 30 nations grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity, which is sold on the world market. In the United States, however, production is strictly controlled under existing drug enforcement laws. Currently there is no large-scale commercial production in the United States and the U.S. market depends on imports.
The 113th Congress made significant changes to U.S. policies regarding industrial hemp during the omnibus farm bill debate. The Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79) provided that certain research institutions and state departments of agriculture may grow industrial hemp, as part of an agricultural pilot program, if allowed under state laws where the institution or state department of agriculture is located. The FY2015 appropriations (P.L. 113-235) further blocked federal law enforcement authorities from interfering with state agencies, growers, and agricultural research. (From "Hemp as an agricultural commodity," Congressional Research Service)
Hemp production has been legalized in North Carolina, but only as part of the state's pilot program as allowed under federal law. As such, it will still be awhile before the first fields are planted. The N.C. General Assembly passed Senate Bill 313 in 2015, but dictated that an Industrial Hemp Commission would need to be established to develop the rules and licensing structure necessary to stay within federal laws. The Commission will be appointed and can begin to meet after $200,000 of non-state monies is raised to fund itself. The law was modified in 2016 in House Bill 992.
USDA report: Industrial Hemp in the United States: Status and Market Potential (2000)
Congressional Research Service: Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity (2015)
N.C. SB 313: Industrial Hemp
N.C. HB 992: Industrial Hemp