The recently-passed state budget eliminates a cap on New York’s burgeoning industrial hemp industry. That will allow more farmers to be able to research, grow and process a crop that could turn into a million-dollar business.
The industrial hemp industry’s first hurdle is also the biggest misconception most people have about.
"It is related to marijuana” is what most people think, said SUNY Morrisville Researcher Jennifer Gilbert Jenkins, “But industrial hemp does not have any THC in it.”
It is THC that creates the marijuana plant’s high, but the biological connection between marijuana and hemp continues to create a roadblock for growing a crop that farmers cultivated in New York State more than a century ago.
So while there are still major Drug Enforcement Administration regulations in place regarding acquiring seed and transporting industrial hemp, New York’s loosening of rules around the industry opens up farmers to a crop that has earnings potential. Processed hemp is already sold locally, valued for its high protein content.
"You can walk into your Wegman's and buy a bag of hemp seeds just like you can buy a bag of sunflower seeds," said Jenkins. "You can buy hemp oil, you can buy hemp meal to use in shakes and smoothies."
However, most of the hemp products sold in New York right now come from Canada and China. Jenkins, who is researching the best ways to fertilize hemp in the field, said New York is not the only state that sees potential in industrial hemp - and that may be spurring New York state to move quickly.
"The state who get the grows happening faster are going to benefit more," Jenkins said. They’re going to be out ahead."
New York State will be holding a hemp summit later this year in the Southern Tier to highlight the challenges and opportunities to grow the industry.