Pennsylvania is expanding the opportunities for growing hemp for research purposes, the commonwealth’s governor announced this week.
Gov. Tom Wolf said the state will permit up to 50 individual growers, or colleges, allowing them to grow up to 100 acres each. Colleges and individual growers can also partner, allowing for even more acreage.
Wolf said in a press release that the number of acres in hemp production in Pennsylvania could be more than 5,000, up from under 50 acres this year.
“Hemp had a long history in Pennsylvania until it disappeared from the landscape half-a-century ago, but now, I’m excited that we’ve brought it back and we’re creating new agricultural opportunities in the process,” Wolf said. “Last year was a learning experience for growers and the Department of Agriculture alike, but even with the small-scale research pilot projects of 2017, it was clear there is a tremendous enthusiasm among growers. Our expanded program is designed to capitalize on this interest in 2018.”
The 2014 federal Farm Bill allowed Pennsylvania to push forward on the Hemp Research Act, which Wolf signed in 2016.
Pennsylvania officials envisioned the first season – this year – mainly as a learning year.
“We learned about the challenges of sourcing seed, controlling weeds, harvesting, and finding markets,” said state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Each of last year’s 14 projects taught us something valuable and we’re pleased that every one of those project leaders are likely to reapply next year. We expect to see the full potential of this industry in 2018.”
Industrial hemp was once widely used in fibers and food. It can also be used as a biofuel and in the making of plastic. But when marijuana, a different variety of Cannabis sativa, was federally outlawed in 1937, industrial hemp also was prohibited even though it did not produce enough THC to be psychoactive.