North Carolina Senate passes farm bill that keeps smokable hemp legal in 2021

Smokable hemp looks set to remain legal in North Carolina next year after the state’s General Assembly sent the state’s farm bill to the governor without new regulations for the hemp industry.

The Senate gave final approval on Thursday to a compromise measure that also got House support on Wednesday.

An agreement between House and Senate negotiators last summer got waylaid over controversies on hemp production and farmers who want to offer shooting sports on their land. Language addressing both topics were omitted from the final bill now heading to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk for his signature.

The main issue over hemp was the legality of smokable hemp, which lacks the concentration of the compound that gives marijuana its high. Law enforcement wanted smokable hemp banned, saying the look and smell make it impossible to differentiate from illegal marijuana in police actions. Farmers who produce it say the crop is profitable.

The final measure also leaves out a broader regulatory structure to expand industrial hemp production in North Carolina.

Sen. Brent Jackson, a Sampson County Republican and chief Senate bill negotiator, said North Carolina hemp will continue to follow rules under a production pilot project. He said retaining the pilot makes sense since federal rules that would expand production have been changing.

North Carolina is one of 20 states that chose to follow the 2014 pilot project rules for this year’s hemp growing season rather than adhere to federal guidelines on the crop.

Associated Press