By Steve Elliott
North Carolina farmers will wake up Saturday morning with a new option for crops. Industrial hemp production is expected to become legal at midnight.
Lawmakers passed the hemp legalization bill in September, in the final days of the session, reports Colin Campbell at The Charlotte Observer. The bill has been on the desk of Gov. Pat McCrory for weeks, and unless he vetoes it on Friday, it will become law without his signature at midnight.
"Hemp really gives us a crop during the summertime that is a viable cash crop to us," said Lee Edwards of Sugar Hill Farms in Kinston, who hopes to add industrial hemp to his fields. "We're in a perfect geographical location for the production of hemp with our climate.
Even the North Carolina Sheriff's Association supports the bill, because industrial hemp farmers would need a permit, administered by the new North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission under federal rules.
“Getting a permit would make it easy for law enforcement to know where the legitimate growers were,” association director Eddie Caldwell said. “If you don’t have a permit, then the assumption is going to be it’s the smoking kind.”
North Carolina is also home to one of the country’s only decortication plants, a facility that processes hemp to sell to textile manufacturers and other users. The multimillion-dollar facility is set to start production soon at a huge warehouse outside the small Nash County town of Spring Hope.