Connecticut U.S. representatives are pushing for a legal clarification that would allow farmers, starting this year, to grow hemp, a non-intoxicating form of cannabis, which has been grouped with marijuana as an illegal Schedule 1 drug.
The 2018 federal Farm Bill legalized growing industrial hemp, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture still hasn’t set up a regulatory framework. Recently, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that regulations might not be in place until the end of summer or the beginning of fall.
But Congressman Joe Courtney said finalizing regulations after the 2019 growing season could be too late for struggling Connecticut farmers who are eager to take advantage of the valuable crop. Courtney said the plant has a wide variety of uses.
“The big one that’s out there right now are the CBD oils that people swear by in terms of helping with aches and pains,” Courtney said. “Hemp can also be used for making clothing. Hemp can be used for making building materials. Hemp can be used for actually making composite panels for automobiles, which they’re doing in Europe for BMW. This plant is just unbelievably versatile.”
Courtney, along with congressional representatives John Larson and Rosa DeLauro, submitted a letter to the secretary of agriculture asking for a path forward based on the 2014 Farm Bill, which is already in place in Connecticut.
The letter states that Connecticut’s General Assembly enacted legislation in 2015 to take advantage of the industrial hemp research and pilot program established under the Agriculture Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill). But the Connecticut Department of Agriculture never adopted pilot program regulations.
“Our request is saying that in the alternative, if the 2018 law is not ready for prime time that we would ask permission under the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed a pilot system under the supervision of the University of Connecticut, to get seeds in the ground this year,” Courtney said.
Governor Ned Lamont is also committed to helping farmers. Courtney pointed out that there is funding for an industrial hemp program in the recently-released state budget proposal, which he said is poised to move forward.
Courtney said the next level would be the creation of processing facilities, which could open the door for private investment and job creation.