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A Bill Legalizing Hemp Farming In Wyoming Moves To Governor's Desk

Melodie Edwards
Wyoming Public Radio

The Wyoming legislature has passed a bill that makes it legal to grow hemp in Wyoming, and legalizes the sale of products made from hemp, including CBD oil.

Scott McDonald with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture said, if the governor signs the bill, the state will have 30 days to present their plans to the federal government. But McDonald said the government shutdown put the feds behind schedule in their work to implement the 2018 Farm Bill that regulates hemp production, so, he's not really sure when Wyoming farmers can start planting hemp seeds.

"We were kind of hoping to get something in place this spring for this growing season," McDonald said. "But we're not sure that's going to happen or not. There's some uncertainty there, so it might be next year."

He said his agency now needs to develop a way to license growers, to test hemp crops to make sure they have less than 0.3 percent THC, and a plan for what to do with crops that have more than that.

The passage of HB171 came as good news to Powell Economic Partnership Director Christine Bekes who encouraged lawmakers to pass it. She said Powell farmers are used to growing specialty crops and the mild climate there makes conditions ideal for growing hemp. She said the community also could use an economic bump.

"In my line of work, I've had so many conversations with potential processors, investors. But there are many very credible conversations that have come to the table now, looking for private investment opportunities. And, as you know, hemp has 25,000 uses, so that value added component is quite broad," Bekes said.

The hemp industry is expanding in the U.S., with total retail sales in 2016 reaching $688 million, most of that from body products, foods and supplements.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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