The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is considering a new rule that would allow some farmers to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. The rule was given initial approval on Tuesday by the state's Agricultural Advisory Board.
The current law allows colleges and universities to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. Melissa Ure, the policy analysist for The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food said the proposed change to the law includes changing the language about colleges and universities. This would allow anyone to grow it if they are properly certified by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
“We will go through the public comment period, hopefully we should get it out for public comment by September,” Ure said. “Then it’s a 30-day comment period. Once we get public comment and once we look through those public comments to see if there are any substantial changes that need to be made from the input from the public. We hope to have this rule finalized and ready to go by the first of the year.”
According to Ure, this proposed change to the law would allow more people to grow the plant, but not for commercial use - only research. Growing conditions and how different varieties of hemp grow in Utah’s climate are some things that will be considered.
Ure said the department of agriculture wants to be clear on the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana. She said when we talk about cannabis, it includes both hemp and marijuana. The difference is that industrial hemp has to have .3 percent or less THC, the component that has psychoactive effects.
“It is something that confuses a lot of people,” Ure said. “Industrial hemp, in order for it to be classified as industrial hemp, it has to have .3 percent or less of THC. Anything that is above that is not considered industrial hemp. At .3 percent THC you are not going to get high off of this plant.”
While recreational and medical marijuana are being considered and used in other states, Ure said this is not the department’s purpose.
“People always think that we made this rule change so that it’s the first step to legalization recreational marijuana, not even close,” Ure said. “This is not what is taking place here. The other thing is that somehow this is related to the medical marijuana issue and this is not.”
Uses for the plant depend on what part is used. Ure said the seeds, stalk and flower can be used for different things like: protein, paper, textiles and oil.