Louisiana’s New Industrial Hemp Sector Off to a Rough Start, Officials Say
BATON ROUGE – Unscrupulous seed dealers, lack of experience with the new crop and regulatory hurdles contributed to a rough first year for Louisiana’s industrial hemp program, state officials said Monday.
“This is a growing pain for us,” said Angela Guidry, industrial hemp coordinator with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
The state has 95 licensed growers, not counting eight that have been approved but have not yet paid the $500 annual fee and 12 pending applicants. But of the 868 acres of hemp planted, only 138 have been harvested, according to the LDAF.
LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain said certified hemp seeds are hard to obtain, and some seeds won’t grow in Louisiana’s climate. He said required federal background checks have progressed slowly during the COIVID-19 pandemic.
Strain said growing hemp that is 0.3 percent THC or less, as the regulations call for, can be challenging. And he said some providers misrepresented the quality of their seeds, leaving growers with an inferior product.
“Some of the paperwork was forged,” Strain said.
Normally, the state’s academic researchers have a chance to study a potential new crop for several years before it is introduced into the market. But with hemp, such research wasn’t legal in the state until last year, Ashley Mullens with the LSU AgCenter said.
“We are learning right alongside of the producers,” she said.
Growers using greenhouses so far have had the most luck. Crops in the field have had problems with insects and the state’s humid climate.
Members of the Legislature’s Industrial Hemp Advisory Committee questioned whether Louisiana’s regulatory framework for hemp and CBD, which includes LDAF, the Department of Health and the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, was too burdensome or confusing.
“I think the process is very complicated and convoluted,” Sen. Patrick McMath said.
While smoking raw marijuana flowers still is illegal in Louisiana, regulators don’t have the ability to stop their sale unless they are advertised as being for smoking, ATF Commissioner Ernest Legier said.
“It’s a hole in the law,” he said.
By David Jacobs of the Center Square