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Cash crop? Industrial hemp measure heading to Gov. Fallin’s desk

OKLAHOMA CITY – As the state continues to grapple with a budget shortfall, lawmakers have passed a measure that would legalize the production of industrial hemp in Oklahoma.

“We know Oklahoma has to diversify our economy. We need new and recurring revenue and this does both,” State Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, told News 4 in November. “Oklahoma is prime real estate for the production of industrial hemp. Our farmers can grow it, they can do well. Our citizens can buy new products that can be made from this, it can be taxed.”

While Oklahomans might not be that familiar with hemp, officials say it can be used in agriculture, textiles and food.

“Hemp is great for textiles, plastics, even as fuel. The research possibilities are endless,” said Dollens, who said the plan is to have a research and pilot program tied to the bill. Currently, universities in the state cannot use the crop in research.

Right now, there are currently 34 states with industrial hemp legislation on the books.

“It’s a cash crop. Unfortunately, throughout time, it’s become synonymous with marijuana,” he said.

While hemp and marijuana come from the cannabis plant, they are very different. Industrial hemp is generally defined as a crop that has less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive substance, THC, found in marijuana.

“Most people think hemp and marijuana are two different plants,” said Ryan Early, CEO of Can-Tek Labs in Oklahoma City. “They’re the same plant, species, genus. Their genetic makeup varies in the active ingredient, the amount of active ingredient actually present in the plant.”

Early’s Oklahoma City-based company creates a variety of products with industrial hemp CBD oil: from massage oil to edible candies. However, his raw product comes from other states where industrial hemp can be grown and processed, like Colorado.

“We have to have farmers in other states, where they do have the legislation approved to grow this non-narcotic, non-psychoactive plant that we then ship here to Oklahoma, process and compound,” Early said.

House Bill 2913, which creates the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program, is headed to the governor's desk.

The bill passed the House unanimously 92-0, while it passed the Senate 39-1.