Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service
ASHVILLE, N.C. – North Carolina’s hemp industry leaders will gather next week in Asheville to talk about the future of growing the cannabis plant at the Southeastern Association of Resource Conservation and Development conference.
Since North Carolina launched its pilot hemp program in 2015, hundreds of farmers across the state have applied for licenses to grow hemp. Brad and Sarah Martin were among the first.
“You would be surprised how many people are jumping on this,” says Brad Martin. “You know, me coming out of the nursery industry, I see so many people, other nurseries in the state, that are adding this into what they’re doing also.”
The Martins are co-owners of Green River Botanicals, a CBD oil company. They’ll be participating in this year’s conference along with other hemp producers and specialists.
The conference runs from Sunday to Wednesday and is hosted by the North Carolina Resource Conservation and Development Association.
Sarah says originally speculators thought industrial hemp grown for clothing fiber would be a boon to the state’s economy. But, she says hemp-fiber processing infrastructure was virtually non-existent.
Instead, CBD oil became the crop-growers’ primary money-maker.
“Like any new industry, it will shake itself out over time,” says Sarah Martin. “And there will be people that figure it out and do very well, and farmers that don’t. And it will be very interesting to see, especially on the textile side, if we can really make great leaps as it relates to that infrastructure, then I think there will be a lot more outlet for farmers.”
Pilot View Resource Conservation and Development, a non-profit that helps communities protect their natural resources while promoting economic development, is coordinating the conference. Its President and Chairman of the Board, Darin Young, says it’s important for entrepreneurs to be engaged in sustainable industries.
“You know, whether it be hemp or anything of the other emerging type markets, any type of information that we can gather together in one place, and people can learn from and kind of have a better perspective and understanding of some of these different things, will be beneficial not only to North Carolina, but the entire Southeast,” says Young.
State lawmakers recently passed the North Carolina Farm Act, which would ban smokable hemp starting next year. Many hemp growers say the move would forestall the industry.
The legislation must be signed by Governor Roy Cooper before it becomes law.