RALEIGH – A bill legalizing the growing of industrial hemp in North Carolina, Senate Bill 313, became law over the weekend without Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature. It establishes a commission to establish state guidelines for complying with federal law that permits a pilot research program into cultivating hemp for products like fabric and rope. The hemp plant has trace amounts of the properties that create the well-know “high” of marijuana plants, raising concerns over its cultivation in North Carolina.
The bill materialized in the last days of the legislative session, moving quickly through the General Assembly. Some lawmakers publicly voiced concerns that it did not go before the Agriculture Committee. However, it passed both chambers by wide margins. McCrory let the bill become law but expressed some concerns in a prepared statement.
“The legislation tasks a new commission to establish from the ground up a regulatory structure to reintroduce a crop to North Carolina. Although there is a clear intent to ensure this program supports agriculture and research goals, a strong regulatory framework to safeguard against abuse is critical to its success and the safety of North Carolinians.”
The new commission will be funded first by donations and then eventually by licensing fees charged to hemp farmers. It will establish a protocol for farmers to use in testing crops, determining which seeds would be available for purchase in the state and how the state will coordinate with federal regulators including that Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Agriculture is North Carolina’s top industry and this program has the potential to provide a new opportunity for many farmers in our state. I encourage members of the General Assembly to further study the regulatory needs of this program with the commission established by this bill, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, research institutions, our federal partners, and all North Carolinians,” said McCrory.
The end of October marked the 30-day deadline for Governor McCrory to take action on legislation passed during the General Assembly’s legislative session, or bills would become law without his signature.