RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Hemp could be the saving grace for farmers across North Carolina but they worry newly proposed regulations could go too far.
Growers spent Wednesday lobbying North Carolina lawmakers.
According to the organization NC Farmers for Hemp, the number of North Carolina farmers growing hemp has jumped from 124 to nearly 1,200 in just the last few years.
That includes Walter Smith who is one of the few who grows the plant for both fiber and CBD oil.
“I see hemp as a way of making a profit for these small family farmers and they can actually save family farms. The revenue they produce stays in the community. It helps rural communities” said Smith.
He believes there needs to be regulation.
But, Smith worries that the final law, when it’s approved, may go too far – especially when it comes to smokables.
“Because smokable hemp is an integral part of the hemp industry. You have hemp fiber, you have the CBD oil and you have the smokables and they all make up the hemp industry in North Carolina” said Smith.
Shane Whitaker agrees and made that argument to lawmakers.
It’s his first year growing hemp which he’s added to his other crops including strawberries and tomatoes.
“Well, if it’s legal for a farmer to grow hemp, legal for us to plant hemp, legal for us to transport hemp how is it going to be that a lawmaker or law enforcement to say of someone gets caught with hemp in their car it’s illegal?” said Whitaker.
Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Duplin) is a primary sponsor of the Senate version of the legislation.
“The ag economy has been in dire straights for the last for the last four or five years anyhow and this hemp crop really has the potential to really help a lot of these tobacco growers out as well as other growers,” said Jackson.
He told CBS 17 he is typically reluctant to increase regulations.
But, in this case he thinks they would benefit the whole state and is hopeful for a compromise.
“We would be setting a precedent across the nation to be at the forefront or forerunner of having one of the best regulated industrial and commercial hemp operations in the nation,” said Jackson.
He agrees with growers that North Carolina has to act fast to get ahead of Virginia and South Carolina.
“We don’t want anything in the act that will impede the hemp industry in North Carolina. We don’t want to be put at a disadvantage of over regulation. There are other states that are trying to get into the hemp business and North Carolina has the chance to be one of the leading states in the nation in the production of hemp,” said Smith.
Smith also hopes growers can be part of the process of helping law enforcement establish the procedure for probable cause when they are not sure whether someone is in possession of marijuana or hemp.
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