Washington state’s fledgling hemp program gets lifeline from legislators

Budget writers in Washington state’s House and Senate have restored money to oversee hemp, potentially ending uncertainty after the governor proposed cutting funding for the state’s hemp production program.

The hemp lifeline, first reported by Capital Press, comes after the Washington Department of Agriculture stopped issuing hemp licenses because of a budget shortfall and threatened to end the fledgling hemp program entirely.

The state has issued only seven hemp licenses since the program began last May.

Washington’s Agriculture Department requested $287,000 to sustain the hemp program, but Gov. Jay Inslee did not include the money in his budget proposal.

According to the Capital Press, the state House and Senate budget proposals include hemp money; a final amount is still being negotiated.

Washington state’s hemp industry has been slow to take off, even though the state was the second to allow recreational marijuana sales.

The state did not allow hemp production until last year, when about 175 acres were cultivated statewide.

That’s a fraction of the hemp crop produced in neighboring Oregon, which recorded nearly 3,500 hemp acres in 2017.

Washington state agriculture officials say they’re currently collecting 2018 hemp applications but not collecting fees.