by Julie Tisdale
City & County Policy Analyst
I’ll never forget the first time I brought hemp seeds home from Costco. My sister (who I was living with at the time) and my husband (who I live with now) made fun of me mercilessly. Actually, they still do. I get so much flack from them about being a druggie, sprinkling a bit on my yogurt for my fix in the morning.
Of course, the hemp seeds aren’t drugs. Costco sells a lot of things, but marijuana isn’t one of them. No, hemp seeds come from a different plant that’s in the same family as marijuana but doesn’t contain HTC. You could eat pounds of hemp seeds and you’d never get high. (Other problems, yes, but not high.)
And yet, I have to buy hemp seeds that are grown in Canada, because, while they can legally be sold here, until recently the plant couldn’t be grown. Government regulations just threw all cannabis plants into the same category, and it was illegal to grow any of them. It always struck me as odd that it was fine to go to Costco and buy a bag of hemp hearts, but growing the plant was illegal. Where is the logic in that? (I know. Don’t look for logic in government regulations.)
But fortunately, I saw this headline today: N.C. first? Hemp-processing plant gets OK in Asheboro.
It turns out that, last year, the NC General Assembly passed legislation recognizing that marijuana and the plant that produces hemp hearts are two different things and should be treated differently in the law. So while marijuana is just as illegal as it’s ever been, the sort of cannabis that produces hemp seeds, hemp oil, and a variety of other products is now legal. And that’s a good thing. There are already farmers planning to grow hemp next year, and the processing plant, with accompanying jobs, should be up and running by next autumn.
This is an example of the kind of thing that lawmakers can do to really help businesses and entrepreneurs. It turns out that hemp grows well in the same places that tobacco does, so it’s a great crop for North Carolina farmers looking to diversify. And the government didn’t have to hand out any incentive payments (as far as I can tell) or make any special deals. They just opened up an option to farmers that had previously been closed.
Legislators should look for more of these sorts of easy wins that give opportunities to anyone who wishes to take advantage of them without penalizing anyone else or harming taxpayers.