North Carolina is considering a ban on hemp flower due to its likeness to psychoactive cannabis, according to a News & Observer report. The issue is creating a battle between two of the state’s more powerful lobbying groups: farmers and law enforcement.
The law enforcement lobby is opposed to a Senate bill to expand the state’s hemp pilot program because, they argue, that legalizing hemp flower would make it harder for them to enforce existing cannabis laws; while farmers contend that smokable hemp flower is more lucrative than oils derived from the plants. Keith Edmisten, a cotton and hemp specialist at NC State University, told the News & Observer that farmers can get $40 per 3.5 grams of hemp flower compared to the same amount per pound of hemp-derived oils.
During a hearing on the issue, Pat Short, a farmer and member of the NC Industrial Hemp Commission, said that changes to the hemp legislation to ban flower would “pull the rug out” from under farmers, some of which have already invested in new equipment to process the crop for flower.
“If they’re in the middle of a crop, they’ve made huge investments and have to support them,” he said.
Fen Rascoe, another farmer and commission member, called the proposed changes “the most anti-farmer legislation in the General Assembly in 100 years.”
House Republicans have already amended two bills aimed at expanding the hemp industry in the state to ban smokable hemp flower.
Guy Carpenter, a commission member who uses hemp to make apparel, pushed back at suggestions by law enforcement members that smokable hemp is a gateway drug and compared the products to non-alcoholic beer.
“Drinking root beer does not lead you to drinking beer. I’m tired of North Carolina being the circus state and having ridiculous laws.” – Carpenter, during the hearing, via the News & Observer
In response to the farmers’ concerns, the Senate approved a compromise – banning hemp flower in Dec. 2020, which would allow farmers cultivating hemp for flower to capitalize on those crops while an alternative is devised to help law enforcement distinguish between hemp flower and its psychoactive cousin.
The debate in the Tar Heel State comes after some prosecutors in Texas said they would toss low-level cannabis charges due to the state’s hemp law and the inability to distinguish hemp flower that contains 0.3 percent THC or less from its THC-rich counterpart. Some law enforcement agencies in Florida have been instructed not to detain people based on the odor of cannabis because it could be a legal hemp product.
North Carolina lawmakers will consider the amendments for the hemp expansion law during another hearing today.
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