Alaska governor cuts funding for hemp program, cites no existing industry

After developing proposed rules in June for its 2019 hemp production regulations, Alaska officials have determined a state industrial hemp program may not be worth funding.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy cut $375,000 from the state budget for Alaska’s industrial hemp program, saying there is “no existing industry to support a state-funded program.”

Under a bill that authorized the legal hemp industry in Alaska, application and registration fees would have paid for the program, according to Anchorage TV station KTVA.

The state’s Division of Agriculture laid off 17 employees, more than half its staff, and the Department of Natural Resources’ Plant Material Center closed two greenhouses because there aren’t enough workers to take care of the plants.

Staff at the center began growing hemp plants in April. But most of the plants have since been destroyed.

The move to cut Alaska’s state program came just days before the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said it was working on federal hemp production regulations.

The USDA said during last week’s U.S. Senate hearing updating lawmakers on the progress of industrial hemp rules that the regulations would be ready this fall.

Without state regulations, any remaining hemp industry in Alaska would be subject to those federal regulations.

In June, Alaska proposed rewarding hemp farmers who use certified varieties with lower THC testing fees in the state’s long-delayed proposal for regulating commercial production.

Alaska grew hemp before gaining statehood in 1959, according to early notes from U.S. visitors, and the state joined the modern hemp industry in 2018 when former Gov. Bill Walker signed a law allowing commercial production.

But Alaska has been slow to implement the law, leaving the state out of the current hemp and CBD boom. Alaska did not record any production in 2018.