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New emergency rule allows immediate hemp planting

OKLAHOMA CITY – Universities who have already been approved for an industrial hemp license can begin planting immediately after the 30-day waiting period was removed by Governor Mary Fallin.

Last month, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry began accepting applications for the industrial hemp program.

“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.

House Bill 2913, which creates the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program, would allow universities and colleges in the state to grow the crop for research.

“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.

HB 2913 passed out of the House and Senate before it was signed into law by Gov. Fallin in April.

Originally, Oklahoma colleges and universities were told to apply for a license 30 days before they began planting.

However, a new rule that was approved on Monday would allow for the immediate planting of hemp to occur.

"This should help them avoid issues such as soil temperatures being too high and the chance of the crop freezing before reaching maturity," a news release from the agency read.

So far, officials say they have approved three licenses.

While independent producers may not directly apply for a license, they may contract with a university or college to obtain a license and participate in the pilot program.