ROWAN COUNTY, NC (FOX 46) - Imagine if you will, a field completely covered with a crop many think is marijuana. In reality, it's actually hemp.
“They are both cannabis plants, but we kind of explain it to some people like corn. If you look out in a corn field you see corn but if you strip off the husk of the corn, you might have field corn which is what you feed animals and humans don't eat or you might have silver queen which is what humans eat,” Founders Hemp Vice President Jamie Crumley said.
Industrial hemp farming one step closer to being a reality here in NC. Farmers taking the first step by learning about the crop. pic.twitter.com/GbQOCZkRyo— Yolian Ortiz FOX46 (@YolianFOX46) November 2, 2016
“You can't get high of it. The THC level is so low, you could smoke the whole field and not get high," Founders Hemp Director of Farming Waylon Saunder said.
Hemp is not Marijuana - THC levels (what gets user high) are so low, one farmer said you could smoke the whole field & nothing would happen pic.twitter.com/5AuCn0kwia— Yolian Ortiz FOX46 (@YolianFOX46) November 2, 2016
In 2015, The North Carolina General Assembly passed a law for farmers, allowing them to grow industrial hemp. They also established the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission (NCIHC), which will create all the regulations and rules for farmers.
The NCIHC met Tuesday, November 2nd, for the first time to set the regulations. They tell FOX 46 Charlotte they plan on working on them for the next 40-45 days. Then they plan on working with 20 farm for their pilot program to grow industrial hemp in the spring of 2017.
Legacy Farms in Wallace, NC has been growing Kenaf, another cousin of marijuana, since 2015.
“We got a lot of confused looks when I first introduced it. We had a lot phone calls with their numbers blocked," Justin Hamilton from Legacy Farms said.
In Hamilton’s eyes, the benefits of growing hemp outweigh the "dirty" looks.
“We are glad to see it in North Carolina because it will help manufacturing. It will help local farmers. A lot of farms are struggling and losing their tobacco allotments. This is going to be a cash crop for a number of years,” Hamilton said.
It’s a cash crop with the potential to triple a farm's income because the whole plant can be used in multiple products.
Farmers would be able to use Industrial hemp for fiber, twine, paper, construction material, oils, cosmetic and even food. pic.twitter.com/LPXEAB2t4w— Yolian Ortiz FOX46 (@YolianFOX46) November 2, 2016
“You can use it in industrial products, you can use it in food products, if all of that is true and it all pans out. That would be bigger than soy beans are right now and that would be a big boost for farmers everywhere they can grow it," CC&Z Farms Kelly Connor said.
Even with the benefits, some farmers tell FOX 46 Charlotte, they’re still a little worried someone might get the wrong idea and call the cops on them.
"These guys are supposed to be telling law enforcement about it so that they won't come by and say 'Oh, there's a marijuana field, let's go bust these guys.’ We are hoping that everyone is on board and everyone gets the information. If not, I’m sure we will have disclaimers out there saying 'No, they are not growing that'," Connor said.