A bill signed last year by Gov. Doug Ducey directed the state Department of Agriculture to write rules allowing Arizona farmers tomorrow start growing the non-psychoactive form of marijuana. That was allowed after a 2014 federal law gave states some permission to license hemp growers for “research purposes.” Those rules are expected to be in place by August.
But what Congress just approved is a game-changer for Arizona farmers looking for alternative crops, said Brian McGrew, the state Agriculture Department’s hemp program manager.
“It completely deregulates and takes it off the Schedule 1 narcotics list,” where marijuana and its cousins have been listed for years. “And then it becomes an agricultural commodity that can go from state to state without the restrictions that were there before,” McGrew said.
“Someone will be able to grow industrial hemp here in Arizona and then send that harvested hemp to, say, a processing facility for fiber or whatever it might be into a different state,” he said.
There is an increasing demand for hemp for everything from fibers for clothing, to oils for soap. That’s because hemp is defined as cannabis but with a low concentration of THC, the psychoactive element of marijuana. Most significant is that anyone who wants to grow hemp first has to be licensed by the state of Arizona. There are other hurdles, as well.