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West Virginia's Governor Jim Justice giving a speech on the steps of the state capitol building.

Gov. Jim Justice

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has signed a bill opening up the state’s hemp production by expanding the availability of licenses, the Register-Herald reports. The measure allows the Commissioner of Agriculture to approve a license for any individual rather than just state colleges and universities.

The application process requires first-time license applicants to submit their fingerprints and undergo state and federal background checks at their own expense. Individuals granted a license, which expires annually on Dec. 31, are “presumed to be growing industrial hemp for commercial purposes,” according to the bill text.

The measure passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

Following the Senate vote, Crescent Gallagher, communications director for the Department of Agriculture, said industrial hemp could play a role in improving the state’s economy.

“The department is looking forward to working with individuals who are interested in growing industrial hemp,” he said in an April 5 Gazette-Mail report. “The hope is that hemp becomes a niche crop that helps grow our agriculture industries and spur economic growth to help diversify our economy.”

Under the previous regime, only the Agriculture Department and connected research programs were able to cultivate hemp. Last week, Justice signed legislation making West Virginia the 29th state to legalize cannabis for medical purposes.

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