OKLAHOMA CITY – After a bill that legalizes the production of industrial hemp in Oklahoma was signed into law, an Oklahoma agency is beginning to accept applications for the 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.
“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.
HB 2913 passed out of the House and Senate before it was signed into law by Gov. Fallin in April.
Now, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is accepting applications for the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Pilot Program.
Oklahoma universities and colleges with a a plant science curriculum are eligible to apply for an annual license to grow industrial hemp for research.
Institutions wishing to participate in the program should submit an application to the department no less than 30 days before planting or cultivating an industrial hemp crop. Those hoping to plant a crop in 2018 are encouraged to get their applications in within the next two weeks.
Application and inspection fees are due when the application is submitted.
Once hemp seeds are produced, department representatives will test and verify the plant.
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.