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Oklahoma colleges partner with farmers to grow industrial hemp

EL RENO, Okla. - Redlands Community College is one of two colleges partnering with farmers and launching a development program to study and grow hemp.

Redlands Community College and Langston University are the first two colleges to begin the new program, partnering with farmers and the company Botanic to study and grow industrial hemp.

"One of the requirements, under the 2014 farm bill, is that you must work within an institution of higher education, and your state must allow the growing of industrial hemp," said Tina Walker, president of Botanic and long-time farmer.

It's been legal to grow industrial hemp in Oklahoma since April of this year when Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 2913.

Walker said there are over 50,000 ways to use hemp, including for lotions, building materials like concrete and fiberboard, rope, paper, mulch and CBD hemp oil, to name a few.

"Wild hemp grows in Oklahoma. Oklahoma used to produce a lot of hemp back up through WWII and, because of that, we have a lot of wild hemp in Oklahoma. So, we know that the environment is right," said Jack Bryant, president of Redlands Community College.

Bryant said students will be doing soil analysis to determine what each farmer who participates in the program has used for fertilizer over the years and what their rotation of crops has been.

"We've already got students that are expressing interest about getting in in the fall. Redlands has not already planted ours yet. We have a license," Bryant said.

The next step will be opening their own indoor grow facility.

"I'm excited, any time we can do something for our students that gives them a competitive edge when they leave our institution," Bryant said. "We really appreciate everything our state legislature has done to make this happen."