Governor DeWine signs hemp legalization bill, months of rule making ahead

Ohio Statehouse News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — With the stroke of a pen, Ohio’s governor Mike DeWine brought the State into line with its neighbors, giving farmers the ability to grow hemp. Last year, the federal government made hemp and products derived from it legal.

This could open up opportunities for farmers looking to diversify their crop, as hemp can be used for a variety of purposes and products including paper, plastic, clothing; food products like oil and flour; and CBD medicinal products.

There has long been confusion over how hemp is different than marijuana and as such it has been caught up in regulation of the psychoactive agent.

The difference between hemp and marijuana

Hemp and marijuana are not plants, they are not even species of plants. They are names society has given the genus of plants from the Cannabaceae family. There are three species of this family: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.

Cannabis plants that create 0.03% or less THC are considered hemp and are perfectly legal at the federal level; Ohio needs to develop rules so it can be legal here too.

Cannabis plants that create more than 0.03% THC are considered marijuana, are a controlled substance and are illegal to grow without a license from the State of Ohio.

However, you can’t tell if a Cannabis plant is hemp or marijuana just by looking at it, because the difference is based on the chemical compound creation found in each plant.

So if you can’t tell the difference between hemp and marijuana plants, how are law enforcement and the State going to police the growing of the two?

Those details are still being worked out, but suffice to say growers will likely have to be part of a hemp registry that law enforcement can access to see if the plant growing in front of them is being grown legally. According to the Director of Agriculture Dorothy Pelanda, everything else will be considered marijuana.

The complete rule making process is expected to last close to six months, though some lawmakers would like to see rules in place by January 1 so farmers can have three months to decide if they will participate in growing the crop.

RELATED: Hemp legal in Ohio, but farmers must wait to start planting

There will be many factors to consider beyond the rules: is their soil optimal for growing the plant, will the space it takes up take space away from another crop they were already growing; will it be profitable to grow the crop if they have to give up space from another commodity?

Ultimately, the bill’s sponsor Sen. Steve Huffman believes the legalization of hemp growth in Ohio is meant to provide options for farmers.

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