BISMARCK - The North Dakota Senate on Monday, March 25, passed a bill that aims to open the door to hemp production in the state.
The 2018 Farm Bill took hemp off the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's list of controlled substances, separating it from marijuana and placing it under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture.
As a result, North Dakota lawmakers introduced House Bill 1349 that would align the state and federal definitions of hemp and establish a program to regulate production.
The bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum for his signature.
The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to create pilot programs and grow hemp solely for research purposes. In 2016, North Dakota started a pilot program, and dozens of farmers signed up to grow the crop.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last month it likely won't have regulations in place to oversee hemp production until the 2020 growing season.
Despite this, Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, said during the floor session on Monday that the state Department of Agriculture "expressed confidence" in setting rules for the upcoming growing season.
"With the passage of (HB1349), and the work of the rules in our Ag Department, we will be in compliance as this process moves forward on the federal level," Myrdal said.
The bill requires hemp growers and processors to apply to the state Department of Agriculture for a license, which will cost no more than $350. This will be cheaper for hemp farmers, who previously had to pay a $150 application fee plus $25 per acre.
Bill proponents say hemp could now become a big industry in North Dakota, especially if companies start to process the plant for cannabidiol, or CBD oil.
"We believe North Dakota stands to take the lead in the development of this crop in our nation, although we still need investors to come to the table for the processing of both the plant fiber as well as the oil," Myrdal said.