Carolina Curious: What Is The North Carolina Industrial Hemp Program?

Carolina Curious: What Is The North Carolina Industrial Hemp Program?

7:00am Aug 31, 2018
Inspecting an industrial hemp field in Bertie County, N.C. Photo courtesy Roger Winstead, North Carolina State University

Industrial hemp has fallen in and out of favor since George Washington first cultivated the fiber on his Mt. Vernon farm, using it to make items such as rope and canvas sails.

As a member of the cannabis family, hemp is often associated with its THC-infused cousin, marijuana.

And admit it, in the back of your mind, you’ve wondered what would happen if you tried to smoke that hemp-based oven mitt you bought at a farmer’s market in Vermont.

But in fact, industrial hemp does have practical economic benefits, which is why the federal government is promoting test programs for individual states.

That prompted these questions from listener Ryan Gillespie of Winston-Salem:

“I’d like to know, 'what is the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Program?' I’d also like to know, 'how is it legal?'"

For this edition of Carolina Curious, WFDD's Neal Charnoff spoke with Emily Febles, manager of the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Program

Interview Highlights

On the difference between hemp and marijuana: 

Industrial hemp and marijuana are both species of the cannabis plant, but they've been bred for different purposes over thousands of years. So obviously marijuana has been bred for its narcotic component. Industrial hemp has been bred for its industrial purposes, mainly over time for its fiber and its large edible seeds, and the other thing its been bred for is its very, very low THC content. 

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Photo courtesy Roger Winstead, NCSU

On the practical applications for industrial hemp:

Car companies are using hemp fibers to help meet their green initiatives. You could go to Costco right now and buy a big bag of industrial hemp seed to eat...you eat them just like sunflower seeds. And then we have all the traditional uses of hemp fiber: shirts, the military has used it for eons for rope, for sail cloth, and that kind of thing. And then the other thing that is really popular that people are using industrial hemp for is the medicinal side. So you might have heard it called CBD. 

On the legal status of industrial hemp: 

Industrial hemp is actually federally legal when it's grown under the state licensing programs that are in compliance with the 2014 Farm Bill. That does open up our farmers to some federal programs...one of the big ones is USDA Organic certification, so you can actually get your industrial hemp certified as organic. 

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