The Buckeye State is getting closer to becoming a hemp state.
As of noon on Tuesday, Ohio’s Department of Agriculture began accepting applications for licenses from would-be growers and processors to cultivate hemp during this year’s growing season.
The application window follows last year’s legislation passed by Ohio lawmakers that legalized hemp cultivation and sales from products derived from the crop. And that legislation followed the passage of a bill on the federal level, the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp from the list of controlled substances, effectively opening the door for states like Ohio to permit industrialized hemp.
The law change was celebrated by farmers in rural states, who are keen to exploit the proliferation of CBD products.
Ohio is one of only three states, along with New Jersey and Louisiana, to have its hemp program approved by the United States Department of Agriculture. Even without federal approval, however, hemp is legal in the vast majority of the states.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, signed the hemp bill into law last summer. As the Associated Press noted, hemp grown in Ohio “must test at no more than .3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana.”
“We believe the safeguards are in place,” DeWine said at the time. “We believe it will provide more opportunities for Ohio consumers, more opportunities for Ohio farmers.”
In its notice about applications on Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Agriculture defined hemp as “a cannabis plant, grown for its many industrial use,” while noting that it “does not produce the intoxicating effects of the cannabis plant, marijuana.”
But Ohioans may soon get the real thing. A group of activists in the state have spearheaded an effort with the aim of getting a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use on November’s ballot. The group has about four months, until the July 1 deadline, to round up nearly 443,000 signatures from registered voters in order for the measure to qualify for the ballot.
Ohio’s medical marijuana program took effect last year.