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  • Hemp’s future as cash crop still has regulatory hurdles

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    May 28, 2019

    IMPERIAL — The 2018 Farm Bill may have removed hemp from classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, but Imperial Irrigation District said that doesn’t mean it can provide water for the crop right now.

    Pursuant to the bill, the United States Department of Agriculture will develop regulations to evaluate and approve plans submitted by states to regulate hemp.

    Plans will need to incorporate special provisions to ensure compliance with the Farm Bill, and to date, no USDA-approved California regulatory plan or USDA federal regulatory plan is in place.

    Because of this, hemp production remains illegal under federal law and thus is not yet eligible for IID water delivery service.

    It’s not legal,” said IID Public Affair Officer Robert Schettler. “We are a public water source, and in no way do we want to endanger our water source (with the Bureau of Land Management). It is our backbone.”

    IID sent a letter to farmers explaining that, for the time being, hemp cannot be grown with its water.

    The IID letter to farmers states the production of hemp is illegal under federal law and subject to enforcement if not in accordance with a USDA-approved state plan or the USDA plan.

    Hemp is used to make a variety of products including rope, textiles, clothing, food, paper, bioplastics, lotions, insulation and biofuel. Hemp seeds can also be used as a food source.

    California is preparing a regulatory plan for submission to the USDA for approval, and the USDA is in the process of establishing a federal regulatory plan. Until then, hemp production remains illegal under federal law despite the Farm Bill’s passage in December.

    Imperial County Board of Supervisor Ray Castillo, a staunch supporter of hemp, believes the dilemma is the hemp regulations have not been written by USDA yet.

    “As soon as we know the full regulations, we can market this county for opportunity zones,” Castillo said.

    Castillo said he thinks the regulations will be ironed out by the end of the year.

    He said farmers are anxiously awaiting the regulations because hemp is a more profitable to grow than other crops.

    Hemp can still be grown for educational purposes by a full-time professor at an accredited institution of higher education when conducting research.

    Pursuant to the forgoing laws, IID also cannot deliver water to marijuana crops under any circumstance as long as marijuana remains a schedule I controlled substance.

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    MIKE MARESH, Staff Writer-I.V. Press