Oklahoma Legalizes Commercial Hemp Production

A representative from Oklahoma’s Department of Agriculture anticipates that farmers will be able to start growing hemp for commercial purposes in 2020.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt last week signed into law legislation that authorizes the production of hemp for commercial purposes. House Bill 2628 directs Oklahoma’s Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to move forward with updated regulations around the harvesting of hemp.

Hemp cultivation was made federally legal last December after Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill. Provisions within the bill removed hemp from the list of Controlled Substances, opening the doors for states to pass their own policies permitting its commercial production.

“For this, I’ve probably had calls from 15 members,” said Rep. Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma), author of the bill. “I had a call today from Commerce Secretary (Sean) Kouplen telling me to hurry and get this done.”

Echols told the Associated Press that his colleagues responded with confused silence when he first filed a hemp bill several years ago. This latest hemp measure had bipartisan support in the state House and Senate.

The new law will replace Oklahoma’s previously authorized hemp pilot program, which had allowed for hemp to be grown by universities and colleges with plant science curricula for research purposes. Eight schools had received licenses to participate in the program.

Once the new state program is in place, Oklahoma farmers will have the opportunity to raise hemp as another cash crop.

“The next step is for [United States Department of Agriculture] to finalize federal rules under the 2018 Farm Bill,” JanLee Rowlett, legislative liaison for Oklahoma’s Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, told the High Plains Journal.

“When new federal rules are in place, we will then develop state rules. After state rules are developed, we are required to have our state plan approved by USDA. USDA has 60 days to respond after we submit the plan. This process will take time, but we want to get it right for Oklahoma producers.”

Rowlett added that she anticipates the new rules from USDA will come sometime this year, and that Oklahoma farmers will be able to begin to plant hemp seeds in 2020.

A Look at Hemp

Hemp, a member of the Cannabis sativa L. species, is a cousin of marijuana, but contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, the compound that causes a “high.” Hemp instead is harvested to produce paper, body care products, textiles, biofuel, green construction materials, cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil supplements, and more.

The recent spike in interest in hemp has been heavily driven by the growing demand for CBD, an all-natural cannabinoid that interacts with the body’s native endocannabinoid system to promote balance and wellness. Nearly 7 percent of Americans now use CBD, and the domestic market is projected to reach $22 billion by 2022.

Keep an Eye on Cannabis

Are you outside of Oklahoma and curious about the hemp laws in your state? Visit our education page to learn more about cannabis laws throughout the U.S. Stay on top of cannabis industry developments by regularly visiting our news page, or by following us on Facebook and Twitter.