Applications for approval for hemp cultivation and processing in Kentucky are being accepted now through a portal on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture website.
The Department will supply licenses to approved producers and processors for the 2022 growing season. Because hemp is the identical plant to marijuana, the version of cannabis that produces a high and is illegal, hemp growing, and processing is more strictly regulated than any other industrial agricultural product.
While some economists have been declaring the hemp revolution over, some analysts expect it to continue to grow for years to come. According to Mordor Intelligence, (https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/industrial-hemp-market) the industry in the US is expected to grow by 16% each year from now until 2026. The company's research shows the development of hemp oils and fibers will drive short-term growth, while food and dairy alternatives will continue to dominate the consumer market. Industrial uses for hemp will grow and provide Kentucky farmers with a global market for their products.
“The nation’s hemp industry continues to face challenging headwinds, including continued regulatory inaction by the Food and Drug Administration toward cannabinoids,” Agriculture Commissioner Quarles said. “As we enter the ninth growing season, we encourage all hemp growers and processors to carefully consider all of the factors in this industry.”
Last year, 450 producers cultivated up to 12,000 acres of hemp. 140 processors and handlers were licensed in 2021. The department also issued licenses for 3.7 million square feet of greenhouse space for hemp cultivation.
More information on the hemp program can be found at kyagr.com/hemp.
The difference between hemp and marijuana
Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis. Genetically they are identical, except that one, marijuana, produces THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical in marijuana that produces a psychoactive effect, gets you high.
Hemp doesn’t have enough THC to produce a high. In early 2021, the USDA decided to keep the legal levels of THC in hemp at 0.3%. All hemp products must have less than that level of THC or they are considered and illegal substance.
Marijuana, while legal for recreational use in some states and medical use only in other states, has higher levels of THC. These strains produce a “high” and are used for everything from glaucoma to pain from cancer.
In most of the United States, marijuana is legal to some degree. In most cases, it’s legal for medicinal purposes with a prescription from an approved physician. In over 1/3 of states, marijuana is fully legal and can be bought by any adult above a certain age, usually the drinking age, for recreational use. Only four states make marijuana and hemp completely illegal. Kentucky allows the sale of CBD oil derived from hemp, as well as other hemp products, but the possession and use of marijuana in any form for any reason is illegal.