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STATUS OF INDUSTRIAL HEMP PRODUCTION IN TENNESSEE IN 2015
Spring 2015 Update
Eric Walker, Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Sciences
For the first time in over 60 years, industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) will be produced in Tennessee during 2015 as a result of the enactments of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (United States 2014 Farm Bill) and the State of Tennessee Public Article 916.
Industrial hemp is used to produce grain and fiber. It is also the same species as marijuana, but industrial hemp does not cause psychoactive effects. Because of its close association with marijuana, industrial hemp production will be highly regulated. Industrial hemp producers must first register with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), and upon approval, must produce the crop under the oversight of TDA. Violation of rules and regulations could result in criminal charges. Therefore, it is imperative that those interested in producing industrial hemp thoroughly educate themselves in all related regulatory and agricultural issues.
This publication is meant to provide introductory information and a current update on the status of industrial hemp production in Tennessee. While it may eventually become a viable, profitable crop in Tennessee, its absence in the United States for the last 50 years and lack of markets and processing infrastructure make industrial hemp essentially a new crop in the United States. As such, there are no recommended production practices for Tennessee. It is important to realize that legislation permitting industrial hemp production is very recent and controversial. New developments will occur regularly as the growing season approaches. Therefore, much of the information in this publication will likely be outdated soon. It is the responsibility
of those interested in growing industrial hemp, and in their best interest, to be diligent in monitoring the regulatory and production requirements of industrial hemp in Tennessee.
History of Industrial Hemp Production in the United States
Industrial hemp was produced in the United States from 1645 until 1958. However, hemp production markedly declined following the Civil War as cheaper imported jute and abaca displaced most domestic hemp. Later, producers were required to register with the federal government following the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which was legislation intended to restrict production of marijuana in the United States. During World War II, jute and abaca imports were disrupted, and hemp production in the United States briefly increased due to the implementation of an emergency program where the U.S. Department of Agriculture Commodity Credit Corporation contracted with War Hemp Industries Inc. to produce hemp as a domestic substitute. After the war, industrial hemp production significantly decreased with the last reported commercial industrial hemp crop in the United States being produced in Wisconsin in 1958. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 categorized any product containing delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as a Schedule I drug, and the cultivation of all Cannabis sativa, including industrial hemp, became strictly regulated by the federal government.
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