Iowa lawmakers to weigh hemp regulations

Iowa legislators must create rules to regulate hemp production in the state now that Congress has legalized the crop.

Posted: Jan 3, 2019 12:30 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa legislators must create rules to regulate hemp production in the state now that Congress has legalized the crop, though advocates are concerned that slow action or rigid restrictions will hurt producers' abilities to cash in on the crop.

Hemp comes from the same plant as marijuana but doesn't contain THC, the compound that causes a high. Hemp is used in clothing, textiles, building materials, paper and food.

Congress approved hemp production in the 2018 farm bill, and many farmers are eager to start planting. The Iowa attorney general and state agriculture officials will meet this month to discuss state regulations for hemp, The Des Moines Register reported.

"We would obviously like to submit our own plans," said Christopher Disbro, the Iowa Hemp Association's board president, "and have the primary regulatory authority here in Iowa and not in D.C."

One issue lawmakers may consider is whether to allow hemp to be used to make cannabidiol, also known as CBD. Advocates say CBD can treat anxiety, epilepsy and depression.

While the U.S. government does allow hemp-derived, Iowa's medical marijuana law doesn't allow CBD to be processed from industrial hemp. CBD can be produced and distributed only through the Iowa Department of Public Health licensing program, the state Department of Agriculture said.

The state's existing rules could cause Iowa to miss out on a growing part of the industry, Disbro said.

"It restricts that entire chunk of the industrial hemp industry," he said.

Iowa lawmakers and farmers can't afford to wait another year before getting started on the industry, said Ethan Vorhes, a northeast Iowa cattle producer who wants to grow hemp as a feed supplement.

"There will be a windfall of investment coming into this industry, from every direction, and we need to make Iowa a magnet," Vorhes said.

Vorhes said that he may move to another state that has more clear and supportive hemp laws if Iowa doesn't take action.

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