BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A bill to regulate the growth of industrial hemp is headed to the governor’s desk after winning final legislative approval. It also paves the way for licensed retailers to legally sell hemp-derived products, including CBD oil.
Hemp was outlawed at the federal level, but the 2018 farm bill essentially legalized it, however, it remained illegal under state law, though most law enforcement agencies did not enforce its regulation.
The gray area between state and federal law left some people in limbo, not sure if the product they used to treat bumps and bruises could put them in jail.
Hemp is a cousin to marijuana, but it cannot get a person high.
“We didn’t want those guys sitting out there in a gray area where the federal government says it’s legal, but our state statute said it wasn’t,” Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, said. “Right now, there’s [CBD products] out there that are not being checked or double-checked.”
Schexnayder, the bill’s author, says Louisiana could be a leader in hemp production because of its arid climate, which allows for a longer grow season. Louisiana farmers could harvest hemp twice per year, whereas farmers in other states would only be able to secure a single crop.
“This is something that can really move the state forward,” he said. “It’s definitely going to help our farmers.”
In a year that has been especially tough for the agricultural industry because of wet weather and a trade war with China, the hemp authorization is welcome news for farmers.
“It will be another thing farmers can consider, especially to diversify their crops,” Ag Commissioner Mike Strain said.
Strain will oversee the regulation of the crop itself by permitting certain farmers to grow the plant. Unlike medical marijuana, which he also oversees, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) will regulate and test the CBD products derived from the plant.
Schexnayder says he’s working with the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to help existing CBD retailers transition under the new law.
Food and beverages containing CBD will not be allowed unless they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Louisiana’s regulations are only enacted once the federal government writes its own rules for the plant. Strain says he expects that to happen before the year’s end, meaning farmers could plant the crop as early as spring of 2020.