ENID, Okla. — A northwest Oklahoma lawmaker intends to re-explore the industrial future of hemp cultivation in the state after the COVID-19 pandemic and the legalization of medical marijuana would have put the spotlight on gap growing industry.
Senator Roland Pederson, R-Burlington, is one of three Oklahoma state senators and six representatives across the state listed as authors in a joint interim legislative studyapproved last week, on rural development through the production of industrial hemp.
Last Friday, State House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, endorsed the joint House-side study, with 81 othersfor the next legislative session of 2023.
The study said it was pending Senate approval, but Pederson said he wasn’t sure if the study still needed approval from Senate Pro Tem Chairman Greg Treat, who has already OK’d 41 out of 60 studies proposed by the Senate July 1.
Hearings for the House and Senate interim studies will be broadcast live beginning in August.
Pederson’s joint study, he said, aims to see if legislation is needed for the state to establish industrial hemp production, with discussion to focus on several issues such as the uses of the plant. of hemp, the seed production process and the uses of agricultural equipment in hemp production.
The retired Burlington farmer and educator said he wanted to know how to move industrial crop production to his district, which includes much of northwestern Oklahoma.
“Other states are really moving forward with (hemp production) and finding use,” Pederson said Monday.
Agronomist Josh Bushong of the Oklahoma State University Extension Office said hemp can be harvested either for the fiber in its stem or for the oil in its seeds. Many different products are made from hemp, such as textiles, home insulation, cooking ingredients, and beauty products.
Lawmakers would also specifically consider whether to increase the legal tested limit of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels in industrial hemp from 0.3% to 1%.
Bushong said Oklahoma’s two most concerning environmental factors — weather and high winds — can stress the hemp plant, which he says could raise hemp’s THC content too much above. the legal limit.
Farmers would then have to discard the entire crop, while no specialized crop insurance policy exists to cover this risk, Bushong said.
“It’s one of those things where you have to play that risk,” he said. “It seems to be worse in western Oklahoma, where it’s more windy.”
This is why hemp, as well as marijuana, is grown in controlled environments like greenhouses.
The two cannabis plants are often confused, Bushong said — both produce varying levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient responsible for the latter’s known psychoactive effect.
However, hemp also produces high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive ingredient, causing hemp to be labeled as a fiber-like plant instead of a medicine. CBD from hemp stems and flowers can be extracted into what is called CBD oil, used as a topical anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant/anxiolytic. However, oil derived from hemp seeds does not contain CBD and the upper limit of 0.3% THC.
Until the adoption in 2018 of the American Farm Bill, hemp has been classified with marijuana as a Class 1 controlled substance under the country’s Controlled Substances Act 1970. However, farmers were still allowed to grow hemp under DEA supervision.
In the same year, then governor. Mary Fallin signed the law the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program, which allowed universities (or farmers working with universities) to grow hemp seeds for industrial purposes. The state Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry oversaw the program, giving it a revolving fund of various participation fees. The program became permanent a year later, while Redland Community College in El Reno launched a state-sanctioned hemp pilot program.
However, Pederson said he believes the medical marijuana industry, also new to Oklahoma, then partly dismissed hemp as a viable crop, as lawmakers rushed to deal with a measure. state ballot passed in mid-2018, shortly after federal and state changes to hemp production.
Then, after the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, Pederson said, lawmakers also couldn’t bring interested parties together, so plans to review hemp again were scrapped.
In 2020, 3,885 acres of hemp were allowed in Oklahoma, up from 21,635 acres in 2019. according to Vote Hempa Washington-based group that tracks the state of hemp legalization across the country.
Bushong, with OSU Extension, said his biggest concern with industrial hemp production in Oklahoma is that there hasn’t been as big a market as expected. After the state pilot program began, he said, the price of hemp and CBD plummeted.
Bushong said he knew a man in Hennessey who had invested a lot of money to extract the oil from the seeds, but the prices were too high to sustain the harvest.
“Now that we have a little supply, we overpriced, and now the demand is not so high,” Bushong said. “It’s one of those things of, ‘What comes first – the harvest or the market?’ There is potential there, but there is no current market for it.