SANDUSKY â€” Itâ€™s now legal in Ohio to grow hemp â€” marijuanaâ€™s respectable cousin â€” and to widely sell CBD oil.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture has planted what may be Ohioâ€™s first legal hemp crop and is gathering information to help farmers who may want to plant it next spring. The Ohio Farm Bureau also is studying the new crop.
On July 30, Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 57, which told the Department of Agriculture to draft rules for licensing and processing hemp and which allows many different retailers to sell CBD oil, a substance derived from the plant allegedly useful for relieving pain and aiding sleep.
Approval of the state bill followed approval of last yearâ€™s national farm bill, which cleared the way for hemp to be grown across the U.S. as a normal farm crop that can be covered by insurance.
Although hemp is produced from the same cannabis plant used for producing marijuana, it does not have enough THC, marijuanaâ€™s active ingredient, to be used as an intoxicant. Hemp can be used to produce fiber for rope and clothing and CBD oil, among other uses.
Dorothy Pelanda, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said her department is working hard to draw up rules for growing hemp and to learn enough about the crop to help farmers decide whether to grow it.
The department planted what may be Ohioâ€™s first legal hemp crop on department property in Columbus on Aug. 1, with Pelanda joining in on the work.
â€śI go out there daily to check it,â€ť she said.
House Bill 57 authorized such research to aid farmers, she said.
â€śWe want to be a resource for farmers and processors alike as they begin to contemplate whether or not theyâ€™re going to grow this product,â€ť she said.
Ohio State University also plans to grow hemp in fields around the state to see what seeds work best in various areas of the state, Pelanda said.
In other states, â€śtypically the farmer will contract with a processor, and the processor will provide them with the seeds or the plant,â€ť she said.
â€śWeâ€™ve been getting a lot of calls from companies who want to come into Ohio to act as processors,â€ť she said. Those are the companies who will want to buy from farmers to make fiber or CBD oil, she said.
The state will create a list of â€śprohibited seedsâ€ť that produce plants with too high a level of THC, she said, and will be testing to make sure hemp plants arenâ€™t actually marijuana.
Licenses will be needed to grow hemp so maps can be produced showing law enforcement where legal hemp products are being grown, the director said.
Ohio does have a legal medical marijuana system, including growers and retail outlets, but that program is regulated by the Department of Commerce, Pelanda explained.
The president of the Erie County Farm Bureau, Paul â€śMartyâ€ť DeMuth, said he hasnâ€™t heard any local farmers talking about hemp so far.
â€śIf somebody comes in and starts offering contracts, people are going to take a look,â€ť said DeMuth, a fifth-generation farmer who lives near Vermilion.
Across Ohio, â€śthere are a good number of our members who have been keeping an eye on this legislation,â€ť said Ty Higgins, director of media relations for the Ohio Farm Bureau.
Higgins said he is going to Kentucky, where hemp is an established crop, to learn more about hemp.