A bill approving the legalization of hemp and CBD products was signed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday. Department of Agriculture Spokeswoman Shelby Croft, explained that the agency plans to approve the final draft of regulations by next year so cultivators can begin planting hemp crops for the spring harvest.
The legislation sailed through the State Assembly and Senate, receiving a unanimous vote from both sides of the aisle. Ohio lawmakers clearly see the potential of the hemp and CBD including the valuable tax revenue that it could generate for the state.
The Ohio Pharmacy Board ruled that hemp and CBD products were a controlled cannabis substance last year, but the majority of retailers continued selling even with the possibility of being raided and fined. Now these businesses can operate without the fear of enforcement since all CBD products were immediately legalized as soon as Governor DeWine signed the bill.
Spokesman Ty Higgins from the Ohio Farm Bureau admitted that the farming industry is still in the learning process for hemp production and is uncertain how profitable it will be long term. "The [Ohio Department of Agriculture] and the [U.S. Department of Agriculture], they’re still learning about hemp production. And Ohio farmers are going to learn right along with them. … Nobody knows if the market will be oversaturated, or if there are market forces in place that we don’t know about yet,” Higgens pointed out.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture officials estimate the agency will need to invest at least $12 million for a hemp and CBD testing facility and hire laboratory technicians to conduct the testing. Hemp cultivators and manufacturers will be required to submit their products for testing to ensure that it doesn’t surpass a THC threshold of 0.3 percent.
Other states, like Kentucky and Texas, have implemented pilot programs for the hemp industry, but many farmers are curious how it will do in a colder climate. The program requires cultivators to partner with universities on research but the regulations will need to be approved by the USDA before the program is permanent – a requirement of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp federally.