Oklahoma lawmakers and regulators listen to industrial hemp experts during a Senate committee hearing Monday. (Photo by Mindy Ragan Wood/Oklahoma Voice)
Experts are urging state lawmakers to pass legislation that would increase regulation of the state’s industrial hemp industry.
Processing plants could move forward with the right state policies and infrastructure in place, said Bruce Niemi, president of the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Foundation. The nonprofit advocates for increased development of hemp in rural areas.
Niemi pressed lawmakers to pass legislation that would create a commission to make regulations for processing plants to expand hemp uses.
“There’s so much testing that has to be done,” he said.
Lawmakers conducted an interim study on industrial hemp uses Monday. Interim studies can help legislators develop ideas for potential legislation.
Oklahoma’s hemp production is primarily used in cannabidiol (CBD) products and seed production, but it could expand to fiber used to make consumer products like clothing, straws and disposable plates, said Kenny Naylor, consumer protection services director for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Naylor said hemp production has declined across the nation due to COVID-19, a shift from hemp farming to serve the medical cannabis industry and a lack of processing facilities.
More facilities would mean lower crop transportation costs, Naylor said.
Naylor said it would be important to have more testing available to ensure hemp does not exceed the federal regulation set at 0.3% for total psychoactive compounds, along with testing for heavy metals.
The existing fee structure for hemp licensing would pay for a commission if the Legislature formed one, Naylor said.
Senator Jo Anna Dossett, D-Tulsa, said hemp could be good for agriculture in the state.
“Let’s start something that’s positive, and well regulated, so that we go above the national model,” Dossett said.
Senator Jerry Alvord, R-Wilson, said he would support industrial uses for hemp rather than creating additional medical marijuana or CBD products because the state has “enough of that.”
“I think diversity is intelligent and wise,” he said. “Opening up a market for the farming industry is a good idea, and I would like to see it regulated to an industrial use only.”
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