Michigan farms will be welcoming industrial hemp soon. However, the new crop is not the same as the marijuana plant that produces THC, a psychoactive compound that the federal government puts under Schedule 1.
According to Michigan State University Extension Field Crops Instructor Eric Anderson, farmers will soon plant hemp by 2020.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed laws like Public Acts 547 and 548, which redefined the legal definition of marijuana by removing industrial hemp from it. Furthermore, the laws authorized hemp research by Michigan universities and the state’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
According to Anderson, MDARD was hoping to set up a regulatory process for Michigan farmers. However, the federal shutdown held up the said plan; but the MDARD will send the program to the US Department of Agriculture for federal approval within two months.
Anderson expects to have the test plots this year, but regular farmers can only plant cannabis sativa by 2020. He is one of the agriculture scientists and researchers writing a “white paper” on the plant. The white paper writer will be out this spring. His group is searching for other research materials from Canada and other US states that are commercially producing cannabis already.
By law, industrial hemp must have at most 0.3% THC while marijuana typically has around 20% THC. Consuming products from cannabis sativa removes the risk of abuse because the plant has no psychoactive effects. However, Anderson does not recommend smoking hemp.
The Michigan State University plans to grow cannabis sativa on campus this summer. If it receives grant funding, it can proceed with the pilot testing on some research farms.
However, the chance of planting the crop on farm plots this March planting season is dwindling because Michigan does not have federal approval yet.
According to Anderson, aside from the hemp-derived CBD oil, the plant’s fibers, feed, and seeds can be commercial products as well. Some reports say that farmers earn thousands of dollars per acre from CBD oil production.
In a report by Michigan State University Extension researcher Dr. James DeDecker, he said that the seed and fiber from cannabis sativa can produce between $200 and $400 per acre and can compete with traditional field crops.
At present, Michigan does not have any processor, but the markets can develop quickly. Growers must have a contract before planting the seed.
Since 2016, at least 25,000 acres in 19 states have been growing industrial hemp, and the States of Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon, and North Dakota are the prime movers.
In Canada, farms have been producing hemp since 1998. Some European Union countries have well-developed markets for hemp.
Another issue among Michigan farmers is crop rotation. Because of the decrease in soybeans prices and corn contracts, farmers do not plan to plant them this year. So, they are looking at having the crop on their farm plots.
Hemp does not need much water, but it requires light soils. Farmers can use irrigation during drought conditions.
According to Anderson, this summer’s research and the white paper on industrial hemp can offer answers before the start of the March planting season in 2020.