HB 18: Regulations proposed for growing hemp harvested from cannabis plant

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An Orem lawmaker wants to tighten regulations on growers of hemp, a fiber extracted from the cannabis plant, but also can be the source of THC, a mind-altering substance.

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, is sponsoring HB18, the Hemp Industrial Program, that will improve the revenue and safety of hemp production on behalf of the farmers and the government.

There are several problems in the supply chain from the farmers to the USDA, and the state has not provided financial support to the program. Consequently, if this is not regulated “they’re not the only group of individuals who [can] benefit and participate [from] the Industrial Hemp Program,” according to Andrew Rigby, Utah state director of Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp.

The bill has passed both a House committee and house floor vote and is nearing a final vote in the Senate. The bill will create additional sources to increase revenue, and it will decrease fees for hemp cultivators and processors. Hemp is the fiber of the cannabis plant, extracted from the stem and used to make rope, strong fabrics, fiberboard, and paper.

This proposed law changes would create a laboratory testing license, which will help the USDA monitor and regulate the hemp industry. Also, the program will pay other expenses and fees that are required in the industrial hemp program. It is expected to increase revenue despite the issues in the industry such as being understaffed and not enough funds from the government.

“What we are doing here is taking the handbags that were passed, a year or two ago, and cleaning it up, making it easy to regulate,” Daw said. “The main thrust here is to keep our industrial hand back in line with the USDA.”

Rigby explained the main achievement that it is expected from these changes is “the purpose for that is to make sure that anytime THC is handled within the state of Utah it’s done by individuals who’ve been cleared to do so with background checks and declare who they are.” 

Another issue that the hemp industry faces is that the state has not been providing funds for their activities. This concern led Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, to say, “If we’re falling short, and we’re pushing the cost on the farmers. Let’s find a way to cut their fees down.”

Rigby said, “We’re simply just trying to create additional resources of revenue from new areas by people that are participating in the program.”

Along with the creation of programs and the increase of revenues, Rigby said that it is expected to always keep those fees, as low as possible. 

Beside this new amendment will allow certain institutions to grow cannabis for academic research and agricultural purposes. Nevertheless, each institution must have a certification issued by the USDA.

At a House Committee hearing, Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, said, “My appreciation for Rep. Daw for cleaning up the language I think this is a new industry and my guess is, as this develops will be back a number of times.”

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