ASHLAND -- This spring will mark the start of the first growing season for Ohio farmers to plant and harvest hemp in their fields -- if they have the proper licensure and paperwork completed.
To assist Ashland County farmers, the Mohican Growth Foundation and the Loudonville Farmers Equity hosted a presentation earlier this week to direct local farmers to the resources they need to get into the hemp business.
Interested farmers or processors were advised to contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Hemp Program, led by executive director David Miran Jr., at 614-728-6201.
At this time, nearby Kentucky leads all states in hemp production. The Bluegrass State has been successfully farming hemp for the past five years. Kentucky was ahead of the game, operating under a state law since 2013. On a federal level, hemp was only legalized through the 2018 Farm Bill.
Hemp was "essentially taxed to death" by legislation passed in the 1930s, Miran said. The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Hemp Program executive director spoke on the history of hemp farming and production at the Tuesday event.
“Hemp has a long history in this country,” Miran said. “There’s a lot of anecdotal, historical evidence that Presidents Washington and Jefferson had hemp growing on their farms, that the Declaration of Independence’s drafts were actually written on hemp paper."
Hemp derives from the cannabis plant (the same plant that produces marijuana), but there is a distinct variation between legal hemp and illegal marijuana, Miran explained.
“The difference being is the total Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The total THC of a hemp plant cannot be more than 0.3 percent," he said. “THC is the psychoactive component that will make you high, so you’re not going to get high by smoking hemp.”
THC levels are detected through chemical analysis. Ohio hemp farmers will be routinely required to provide samples from each field of hemp on their property to ensure the THC percentage isn’t “hot,” or over the 0.3 percent limit.
If a field tests above the 0.3 percent line, a second sample and chemical analysis can be requested. If the second test fails, the crop will be destroyed.
There are three main varieties of the hemp plant that can be farmed. Their fibers can be used for ropes, textiles, building materials and insulation.
The seeds can be pressed into hemp oil and are high in protein.
Farmers can also retrieve the floral sections of the plant to be for cannabidiol (CBD) products.
Over 90 percent of farmers plant hemp to harvest the CBD flower, according to Miran. The growing season is for the plant is similar to corn, and ranges from late May until October.
Interested hemp farmers are required to have one of two types of Ohio Hemp Licenses: A Hemp Cultivation License or a Hemp Processing License. They will also need to pass a background check.
Planting locations must be mapped out for law enforcement so they can monitor the plant’s production. State Representative Darrell Kick gave details on the process at Monday’s presentation.
“There will be GPS coordinates,” Kick said. “You will have papers to show that you are a legal producer and transporter.
“I’ve ridden with state highway patrol when they’ve pulled people over with medical marijuana. They show their paperwork, they open the container, and if everything is on the up-and-up, off they go.”
Hemp growing fields are not required to be fenced, but it is recommended that signs be placed around the yielding space. A minimum outdoor growing space is a quarter of an acre and 1,000 plants. The fields must be at least 500 feet away from schools and parks and at least 100 feet away from residential buildings.
“We wanted to show that the state is aware of the sister to it all with marijuana,” Kick said. “We have medical marijuana that’s being regulated as well.
“This is going to be something different to show that our people do it correctly, in a way that shows the public that we are not going down the road of legalizing marijuana through hemp.”