HB 491 paves the way for hemp legalization in Louisiana

Updated: Apr. 26, 2019 at 10:05 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It looks like marijuana, but it’s not. It’s actually a plant that has many uses, such as making oils, paper, and even building supplies. Hemp was essentially banned by the federal government in the 1930s, but it’s making a slow comeback.

House Bill 491, filed by Rep. Clay Schexnayder, would pave the way for its return in Louisiana.

"This is a piece of legislation that will move our farmers, move our state forward,” Schexnayder said.

The bill approves the production of industrial hemp along the guidelines set forth under the 2018 Farm Bill. You cannot produce CBD oil from anything other than hemp seeds and producers must go through a litany of inspections.

"I don't see a negative side to it at all,” Schexnayder said. “I think we'll be a state that is at the forefront of the hemp industry and I think other states will start following what we do."

Kyle McCann with the Louisiana Farmers Bureau says he doesn’t expect the crop to take root immediately with farmers.

“I think you’ll see growers that are interested in it at different levels,” McCann said. “Initially, it will be small acreage to ease into it, get familiar with production.”

According to the LSU AgCenter, only 200 to 1,000 acres are expected to be produced initially. McCann says once the market grows, the state could see more farmers make the switch.

"Until we can get into it and see what the process is, the production of the various products are, that will drive essentially where the growers go to because they’re not going to get in the production if they can’t sell it,” he said.

Schexnayder is optimistic about hemp’s future in Louisiana.

"I think we are perfectly set to be the best hemp performers in the country,” he said.

The bill passed committee Thursday, April 26. It now waits to be heard on the House floor.

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