Alabama has approved applications from 180 farmers who want to grow hemp, and the first crop will be planted by April, said Alabama Agriculture Department Commissioner Rick Pate.
"The people who have applied are serious farmers," said Pate. "These are not people who have grown marijuana."
A couple of applications that do not include application fees of $ 100 or that do not come from qualified farmers may have been rejected, said Pate.
"There may be one or two who wanted to grow it in their backyard," said Pate. "This is not the intention."
Otherwise, no real farmer has been refused. The deadline to apply was early March.
"We have approved all legitimate applications," said Pate. "These notifications are coming out this week."
Alabama has also received about 70 applications from people wanting to benefit from hemp processing operations, Pate said. "We ended up approving them all," he said.
"The idea was to keep people who did not know what they were doing," he said.
The next step for farmers is to buy hemp seeds, which cost about $ 1,000, and plant them. "We have to give the certification to get the seed," said Pate. "He can not enter the state without a certification from us."
Although marijuana is a type of hemp, industrial hemp contains much lower amounts of THC, the intoxicating substance of marijuana.
"It's industrial hemp," said Pate. "He does not have THC. If you tried to smoke, you would become sick like a dog before you smash. There is no point in smoking it or using it for hallucinogenic purposes. It's a different species (than marijuana). "
Hemp is appreciated for its fiber, which can be used to make rope. Stems and seeds can be used for fabric, fiberboard, carpets, insulation, livestock feed and automotive components. Hemp can also be the source of cannabidiol, or CBD oil, that some people use to treat physical ailments.
"There is obviously a market for that," said Pate. "We will inspect it and test it."
CBD oil can also be derived from marijuana and the Alabama legislature has allowed limited exceptions to the law prohibiting the possession of marijuana for the use of CBD oil .
The 2018 Act on Agriculture and Nutrition changed the legal status of hemp, from a controlled substance to an agricultural commodity.
"It's a pilot program," said Pate. "We have the responsibility to go out and inspect it. We must see which varieties are better. "
If someone planted the wrong kind of hemp, "we're going to plow it," said Pate.
Pate refused to identify hemp producers by name. But it is clear that hemp will soon be available on state farms.
"They will be planted between mid-April and late April, after about 90 or 100 days," said Pate.
So, by the end of summer, Alabama will have its first legal hemp crop for decades.
Then the processors in state will have to be able to turn it into a product.
"There could be no market or processor," said Pate. "Someone has to treat it."
Hemp processing plants in Alabama will have to take shape quickly for an industry that does not yet exist.
Otherwise, hemp producers will not be able to use this crop.
"They need to consult a lawyer before sending it across the state's borders," Pate said. "We think there will be treatment places, but they may not be ready by this fall."
The first year of growing hemp can be rich in trial and error. "Maybe they will learn from it and come next year to be ready to go," said Pate.
But the potential for a new relationship culture is there.
"I hope so," says Pate. "We do not have a good one right now. It could happen. Otherwise, we are wasting our time. "