Governor Mark Gordon has signed into law a bill that approves funding for a regulatory program to grow and sell hemp.
High Altitude Hemp Company owner Joshua Egle was a big supporter of the bill, which was sponsored by Casper Representative Bunky Loucks, and he attended the bill signing on Wednesday. He plans to expand his business onto his family's homestead ranch in eastern Wyoming this year under the new name Big Barn Hemp Company.
Egle said he got his start growing medical marijuana to help his mother who was ill.
"She's been battling MS for most of her life and it's been helped a lot by medical marijuana," Egle said. "So I started on the medical marijuana side of things in Colorado. But four years ago, I saw just the impact that hemp would have, both for people's health, but also I think there's so many applications that help the planet be a better place. So, I got really passionate about hemp."
Last year, Wyoming legalized hemp growing but didn't provide any money to monitor crops to make sure they stayed below 0.3 percent THC content, the ingredient in marijuana that makes it a narcotic. Hemp plants have a tendency to become higher in THC as they get closer to harvest time, Egle said. In other states, regulators have required whole crops to get destroyed because of this. Egle said he's been working to develop more reliable genetics for farmers.
"The genetics I'm bringing up to Wyoming, we've tested them over several years," said Egle. "We can provide farmers with a blueprint of not only when to harvest, but how they can monitor their own crops and know the appropriate time to harvest while they're still within that 0.3 percent THC threshold."
Egle said he sees hemp production as a good option for farmers since he expects the industry to grow rapidly in coming years. He plans to hire several employees soon to begin hemp clone propagation in a barn on his property that he converted into a greenhouse.