Alaska’s hemp cultivation pilot program has been completely defunded and the crops being grown by the state under the program have been destroyed, according to a KTUU report. The Department of Natural resources has destroyed 1,000 hemp plants being grown at the Plant Material Center in Palmer as they no longer had enough staff to care for the plants.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) told KTVA that he had pulled the program’s $375,000 funding because “currently there is no existing industry to support a state funded program.” However, without the pilot program, there can be no legal industry in the state.
The bill establishing a pilot program for hemp was approved by the Senate in 2017 and unanimously by the House last year and was largely supported by the state’s farming community. The measure was signed into law by then-Gov. Bill Walker, an Independent.
According to a fiscal note attached to the legislation, application and registration fees paid by farmers to grow the crop were expected to make up for any money paid by the state to get the program off the ground. The Natural Resources Department expected at least 25 farms to register to grow the crops in the first year but had only issued proposed regulations to govern the program on May 31.
Aaron Ralph, owner of Alaska Cannabis Exchange, told KTUU that he expected the hemp bill would lower the costs of his CBD oil, which he sources from Colorado and currently costs $165 for a 60-day supply. Ralph said he had planned on sourcing the oil from Alaska which would reduce the product’s cost.
“It’s just kind of disappointing, because our goal was always to be able to produce Alaska’s products in Alaska. I see this as jobs lost for the state.” – Ralph, to KTUU
Dunleavy’s hemp program cut was part of a larger action that closed two of the four PMC greenhouses and laid off 17 Division of Agriculture positions – more than half of its workforce.