Tennessee hemp law moves forward

Tennessee hemp law moves forward

Posted:
East Tennessee farmers could be planting hemp crops as early as next year, but it's still a long way off before Tennessee grown hemp would make its way onto the shelves. East Tennessee farmers could be planting hemp crops as early as next year, but it's still a long way off before Tennessee grown hemp would make its way onto the shelves.
"Hemp grows in 120 days, so you've got a fast growing plant that can be turned into clothing," said Amber Keirn. "Hemp grows in 120 days, so you've got a fast growing plant that can be turned into clothing," said Amber Keirn.
According to the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association, Tennessee would become the 14th state in the country to legalize hemp farming. According to the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association, Tennessee would become the 14th state in the country to legalize hemp farming.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – While the effort to bring medical marijuana to Tennessee failed this year, lawmakers this week legalized the growing of its cousin, hemp.

Industrial hemp contains very little of the substance that gets you high. It can be used for a vast array of products.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, passed unanimously in the Senate Wednesday and will now head to the governor's desk for his signature.

East Tennessee farmers could be planting hemp crops as early as next year, but it's still a long way off before Tennessee grown hemp would make its way onto the shelves.

Amber Keirn, the owner of Knoxville-based Hemp Monkeys, says this is a good first step.

"Hemp grows in 120 days, so you've got a fast growing plant that can be turned into clothing," said Keirn.

According to the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association, Tennessee would become the 14th state in the country to legalize hemp farming.

If signed into law, Tennessee farmers could only use it for research and development.

UT Agriculture professor Burton English said he hopes the university takes part in that research.

"We're looking for alternatives in our agriculture system were looking for ways to increase the agricultural vitality of our country and the belief is when you bring these types of actives in that will happen," said English.

Similar to other pilot research programs they've taken part in; they could grow it on campus or partner with local farmers.

"It's a phenomenal source of income for [farmers]," said Keirn.

There is money to be made in hemp, but it's going to take time.

"I think there's going to be a lot trial and error with it, once they get the regulations down and once they decide how they're going to use the hemp that's grown. It's just going to take some time," said Keirn.

An amendment was added to the bill that requires the Department of Agriculture to start writing rules 120 days after passage. So there is a very small possibility that anyone could start growing the crop this year.

It's been more than half a century since hemp was grown legally in Tennessee, mostly because of its similarities to its cousin crop, marijuana.

Initially concerns were raised by law enforcement officials including the TBI when the bill was first proposed.

"We opposed the bill when first introduced because, as written, it allowed for the production of industrial hemp without any oversight. The amendment, added during the legislative process, requires oversight and licensing from the state's Department of Agriculture. With that in mind, we don't have a particular position on the issue one way or the other," said TBI spokesperson Josh DeVine in an email.

Growing the plant is prohibited by federal law, but an amendment to the Farm Bill earlier this year allows it to be grown for research and development in states that have legalized farming of the plant.

For many Tennesseans, there's a hope it will be beneficial to the economy.

"I think this might be an excellent alternative for Tennessee farmers," said English.

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