RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina is the latest state considering a ban on smokable hemp, a product that’s exploding along with the health craze surrounding a compound in the plant known as CBD.
Besides federal regulations laid out in the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, the Food and Drug Administration has no additional regulations on smokable hemp, leaving states to figure out how to govern it themselves.
North Carolina’s House is considering a smokable hemp ban after it recently passed the state Senate.
The legislation focuses primarily on expanding the state’s pilot hemp growing program, which has more than 1,000 licensed hemp growers and 600 registered hemp processors, to position it as a leader in the burgeoning industry. The bill would place more regulations on hemp but also create a hemp licensing commission and establish a fund for regulation, testing and marketing.
North Carolina law enforcement wants the ban, saying officers have no way of distinguishing smokable hemp from marijuana.
This year, Indiana, Louisiana and Texas banned smokable hemp entirely, while Kansas banned products, including hemp cigarettes and cigars. Tennessee prohibited smokable hemp sales to minors.
Hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants. Dried, smokable hemp looks and smells the same as marijuana but contains less than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound that gives marijuana its high. Hemp has cannabidiol, or CBD, which many believe helps with pain, anxiety and inflammation, though there’s limited scientific research to support those claims. It’s turning up in products ranging from lotions and cosmetics to diet pills and juices.
The proposed ban would impose a civil penalty of up to $2,500 for anyone who manufactures, sells or possesses smokable hemp.
But scores of farmers in the traditional tobacco state have told lawmakers a ban would hurt them as many deal with hurricane damage and decreased tobacco prices.
Smokable hemp is lucrative partly because farmers just need to dry the hemp flowers. Other products require a complicated, costly process for extracting CBD oil.
North Carolina’s Senate voted to delay the ban until December 2020 to allow more time to figure out regulation, but a House committee subsequently moved the date a year sooner. That version is continuing to move through the House.
Bill co-sponsor Republican Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson County prefers the later effective date because he thinks portable tests will be available soon to differentiate hemp from marijuana.
The State Bureau of Investigation and the North Carolina Association Chiefs of Police say delaying the ban would be a “de facto” legalization of marijuana, since people could disguise marijuana as hemp.