The highly anticipated North Carolina Farm Act, Senate bill 315, was recently signed by the Governor. However, all reference to updating the state’s industrial hemp program was removed from the final version, leaving the highlights of the bill to be marketing for sweetpotatoes (now one-word) and the broadened definition of agritourism.
Since 2019, ten versions of the bill have circulated the NC legislature in an effort to establish a more permanent NC hemp plan. The final 11-page Farm Bill scrapped 15 pages of hemp industry-related law, forcing the industry to wait a bit longer for a more permanent plan. The North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission has noted in meetings over the last few months the lack of resources to transition its program, and the concern of uncertainty shared by all industry players as the current pilot program expires in October. The Commission may have known to not expect finality as it discussed a request to extend the current pilot program for two additional years.
It was better to eliminate the hemp provisions from the bill rather than pass them in their latest form. The proposed program sought to criminalize smokable hemp, increase licensing requirements for industrial farmers, and impose unnecessary bond requirements. All these regulations would create massive hurdles for the budding industry. Ideally, more time will allow all parties to come to an agreement on a workable plan.