Farmers are talking out towards Maine’s plan to undertake stricter, extra expensive hemp farming guidelines, urging state agriculture officers to decrease licensing prices and never change how they measure the small quantity of psychoactive aspect discovered on this hashish crop.
Maine needs to vary the way it defines hemp, and the way it differentiates it from marijuana, to echo stricter federal pointers on how a lot THC is allowed by utilizing a federal components that reduces the small quantity of psychoactive aspect that has been allowed in Maine hemp since 2014.
Sarah Hewitt of Victory Hemp in Union speaks throughout a listening to in Augusta on Tuesday on proposed hemp guidelines. Farmers are criticizing guidelines proposed by the state that would scale back the quantity of THC, the psychoactive aspect in hashish, that’s allowed in hemp. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal
Utilizing the proposed efficiency components, about 27 p.c of farmers who grew hemp in Maine final summer time would have had an excessive amount of whole THC, one thing the trade calls “testing hot.” Whereas state officers tried to reassure farmers, new federal guidelines would require scorching hemp to be destroyed.
Most of the farmers who testified Tuesday spoke out towards the stricter THC components, and requested if state officers would delay implementation for a yr or contemplate permitting farmers to take away extra THC from a scorching crop so the product that is still meets state and federal requirements.
Whitefield hemp farmer Ben Marcus known as the THC threshold a political quantity that had nothing to do with any scientific knowledge concerning the hashish plant’s impact on a shopper. He complied with all of the state’s guidelines when rising his 2019 crop, however the identical seed if planted this yr would seemingly check scorching.
“I’d like to keep access to the same genetics as I did last year because they did great,” Marcus stated.
The uncertainty is making it exhausting on Maine farmers to purchase seeds. Many wish to stick with the identical strains they already know how one can develop with relative assurance they might check beneath the THC threshold however nonetheless include excessive quantities of CBD, which makes them invaluable within the wellness market.
Ready too lengthy to settle the THC degree might put Maine farmers at an obstacle if they’ve to modify to new strains that check beneath the federal ranges. Such seeds will probably be in excessive demand, elevating the working prices and shrinking revenue margins, if farmers may even discover a method to purchase them in any respect, they stated.
Some farmers urged Maine to undertake guidelines just like ones not too long ago authorised by Vermont, which supplies the hemp farmer flexibility to make use of crops that are available in barely over the allowable THC restrict, however not promote them into the CBD marketplace for human consumption. As an alternative, they may very well be used as animal bedding or biomass.
The state’s hemp program supervisor, Gary Fish, advised the viewers of greater than 50 hemp farmers Tuesday that the division would do all it might to work with them. The proposed rule “is not set in stone,” Fish stated. The division will probably be as versatile as potential inside state and federal legislation, he stated.
The brand new state rule additionally would double the per acre charge to boost hemp from $50 to $100. State officers stated that will pay for a brand new program supervisor and a full-time seasonal inspector and provides Maine the pliability to do issues like oversee farmers extracting THC from scorching crops to make it authorized hemp once more.
“The fees for small farmers are going to more than double,” hemp farmer Erica Haywood stated.
She in contrast the allowing prices for rising 49 acres of hemp in North Carolina, about $504, to what it will price her to develop the identical crop in Maine, about $6,440. With a pound of hemp flower promoting for about $275 presently, Haywood estimates 25 p.c of her gross revenues can be spent on licensing.
Many different farmers agreed, saying they wished the state to have the funds to develop this system however that margins had been too tight, with an excessive amount of uncertainty available in the market, to deal with the proposed charge improve within the state hemp plan.
“I’m a small farmer,” stated Colleen Maguire of Silver Highlands Farm in Plymouth. “I did 5 acres this past year. My intent was to do 18 acres this year. … But if this licensing goes into effect, I will not be able to do it. I will simply not be able to afford it.”
The Division of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry will contemplate public feedback, together with any submitted in writing earlier than Jan. 20, earlier than sending its hemp rule to Commissioner Amanda Beal and the Maine Legal professional Normal’s Workplace for consideration earlier than changing into legislation.
The ultimate state guidelines will probably be in impact for the 2020 hemp rising season. Maine has determined to stay with its personal hemp program in 2020, making use of no matter new guidelines it adopts, after which apply this summer time for federal approval for its state program for 2021 and past, Fish stated.
Farmers fear the proposed change might undercut the state’s hemp trade simply because it begins to take off. Three years in the past, Maine was rising lower than 1 / 4 acre of hemp. As demand for CBD merchandise took off, nevertheless, this system expanded quickly. The state licensed 2,700 acres of manufacturing in 2019.