Utah moves to approve growing industrial hemp for research

A Utah agricultural board has given preliminary approval to a change in government rules that would allow farmers in the state to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes.

Under the Utah Department of Food and Agriculture’s proposed rule, farmers would be allowed to grow hemp that contains less than 0.03% THC, according to Salt Lake City TV station KSTU.

State research institutions such as Utah State University are already allowed to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes as part of the 2014 federal Farm Bill, but the new rule would expand who’s allowed to grow the plant, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

People who want to grow the plant would have to submit a research plan to the state to be approved for a permit.

The agency will likely open the proposal to a public comment period in September. If no major changes are required, the state’s agricultural commissioner could give final approval in October and begin licensing in early 2018, the TV station reported.

Several farmers have already contacted the agriculture department about growing the plant, but an agriculture department spokeswoman said the approval wouldn’t give them the right to sell their hemp, according to KTSU.

The proposed rule change, she said, is intended to determine if the plant can be successfully grown in Utah based on a study of how hemp reacts to local environmental conditions and how much water it requires.