How proposed state ban on smokable hemp could affect industry

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The hemp industry has been growing nationwide. Now, some state lawmakers propose a ban on smokable hemp, also known as smokable flower.

The reason is that law enforcement officers have a hard time distinguishing hemp from marijuana.

The North Carolina General Assembly was scheduled to debate the proposal Wednesday.

Leaders of the hemp industry agree that there need to be regulations on the fast growing industry. But they think banning smokable hemp immediately may not be the solution.

“This would be a devastational blow to North Carolina in particular,” CEO of Hempleton Investment Group Justin Hamilton said. “As fast as the hemp industry is growing across the nation, North Carolina has currently been a leader.”

Hamilton says a ban on certain hemp products would hit the whole industry hard.

“30% of this industry is built on smokable flower production,” he said.

If banned, Hamilton says farmers would lose this entire season’s worth of crops, not to mention how he says it would affect around 70% of his customers.

“They use this product for pain relief,” he said. “Right now, smokable flower gives them the quickest and most effective pain relief of any product in the store.

Hamilton says a major reason for the ban comes from law enforcement.

“They’re saying now that hemp resembles marijuana so much an smells just like marijuana when it’s burned, that they have lost probable cause,” he said.

Hamilton says law enforcement has probable cause to search a car when they smell marijuana. Now, he says that could easily be confused with hemp.

Ultimately, Hamilton thinks there can be a compromise.

“Many of us as industry leaders do support regulation,” he said. “Currently, I believe we should allow smokable flower to at least continue until December 2020 to be able to fine tune that category in this industry without eliminating it altogether.”

Hamilton says waiting to impose the ban until 2020 would also allow farmers to sell their crop from this season.

Another solution he and others have proposed is to impose a roadside test to help law enforcement distinguish between hemp and marijuana.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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