Louisiana opens application period for 2021 hemp licenses


FILE – In this Aug. 21, 2019 file photo, an industrial hemp plant is shown in Clayton Township, Mich. With industrial hemp promoted as a new cash crop for struggling farmers, Louisiana’s agriculture department is fast-tracking the regulations for the newly legal commodity, with the first grower licenses expected to win approval in February 2020. Interested farmers are packing orientation sessions to learn about the lengthy paperwork, licensing, testing and reporting requirements the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry is enacting to govern industrial hemp production in Louisiana, under a program overwhelmingly backed by lawmakers earlier this year. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s agriculture department is accepting applications for its 2021 industrial hemp licenses, the second year of the program created by lawmakers to try to start a new agricultural industry in the state.

state license is required for any person growing, handling, transporting or processing hemp or hemp seed in Louisiana. Applicants must pass a criminal background check. No one convicted of a felony within the last 10 years or a drug-related misdemeanor in the last two years is eligible.

Hemp is a member of the cannabis plant family but contains only traces of the THC chemical compound that causes a high for marijuana users.

Louisiana currently has more than 160 active hemp licenses, according to the Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

The regulatory requirements are lengthy — and the oversight of growing operations is intense. State officials want to encourage production of hemp to help farmers diversify their crops, while ensuring none of the operations cross over into marijuana growth.

Louisiana’s hemp legalization came after Congress’ 2018 Farm Bill removed the crop from the list of federally controlled substances, giving states an opportunity to develop a hemp-growing program.

Growing demand for Cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant often extracted from hemp, has helped drive interest in hemp. But the crop also can be used for textiles, fuels, clothing, body lotion, paper, rope and chemical absorbents, among other products.

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