by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
What is the difference between hemp and marijuana? One difference is the presence of an addictive, psychoactive chemical compound. Unlike marijuana, hemp doesn’t contain delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that dulls the mind, relaxes the body, and gives the stomach a desperate craving for pizza and nachos.
By federal definition, hemp products contain no more than a 0.3 percent concentration level of THC. They contain nonpsychoactive chemical compounds known as cannabinoids, especially cannabidiol (CBD), which are purported to offer health benefits without the mind-altering effects.
Since the passage of the federal Farm Bill of 2018, however, there’s another difference between hemp and marijuana: the opportunity for North Carolina to enjoy a new, potentially lucrative agriculture industry. That’s pending the creation of a state plan for the cultivation and handling of hemp.
North Carolina will wind up with a plan eventually. If state policymakers don’t create one, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will impose its own plan to license and regulate hemp producers. (If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same gambit attempted by Obamacare to compel state compliance with insurance exchanges.)
The North Carolina Farm Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 315) would, among other things, set up this state plan. Here are several highlights of what it would do regarding hemp:
As reported by Carolina Journal, the regulations would address a current legal gray area for hemp products. It’s no longer a controlled substance at the federal level, but at the state level it’s unclear. Meanwhile, there has been a sudden influx of hemp products promising health benefits — from CBD oils to CBD-infused lotions and even foods containing CBD — but they are of questionable legality.
That there is a market for such products is evident already. But a hemp industry wouldn’t just be geared toward trendy, new, health-centered wares. Hemp products also include such items as clothing, fabric, rope, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard, plastics, and many other things.
Taking action now to regulate hemp in accordance with federal expectations would boost North Carolina agriculture. It could potentially yield a double bonus by making North Carolina a first mover in regulating hemp, and it would also help retailers and consumers here by removing any uncertainty over hemp products.