As Florida's lawmakers and business community continue to create the infrastructure for a booming hemp industry, there are obstacles that must still be overcome.
At this year's annual Lay of the Land conference, hemp industry expert Kirk Goble spoke about some of these obstacles and offered some potential solutions. Goble is a real estate broker with the Bell 5 Land Company in Colorado. He is also a real estate instructor with Realtor's Land Institute.
Speaking about some of the legal obstacles faced by the hemp industry, Goble spoke specifically about the federal government's position regarding the very definition of hemp as opposed to marijuana. Legally speaking, hemp is defined as being made up of 0.3% THC or less. This is due to THC being the intoxicating component when inhaled, which is why cannabis strains with high THC are classified as marijuana.
According to Goble, " 0.3% THC as a definition of hemp is completely arbitrary. There is no backing of any kind. No scientific study. Nothing that says that this is a magic number. The industry would push for one percent. At one percent, that would still be the worst marijuana anybody ever had. If we could get to one percent at least we'd have some flexibility there. The USDA does not have the ability to change it. Congress has to change it."
Goble brought up the possibility that environmental factors outside of the control of hemp growers could push the THC levels above 0.3%, in which case the grower would have to destroy the crop. Goble suggested a provision in which these crops could be sold, but at a lower price than those that were below the 0.3% requirement.
"If you take corn to the market and it has moisture problems or too much foreign matter," Goble says "it doesn't mean you can't sell it. You just get docked for it."
Goble also brought up the fact that most THC is stripped from the product during processing and extraction.
Goble also spoke about a federal requirement that every testing lab for hemp must be a DEA lab. "There are 47 of them in the whole country," Goble said, " and there are some states that don't have any. so you can imagine the bottleneck that that would cause. Last year we had 517,000 acres of hemp in this country. You can imagine the bottleneck that would occur if you can't utilize a different lab." While the specific DEA requirement has since been dropped, hemp testing is far from reaching maximum proficiency. "Now you've got a fifteen day harvest window, and 100% testing requirement for the USDA. This is an industry killer."
The core of these obstacles, according to Goble, is that "people that are writing these laws don't understand agriculture."
"These are concerns of the industry that really demonstrate the lack of knowledge on the part of the people that are writing these rules and regulations."