Kenton Co. farm forced to burn hundreds of pounds of hemp

Updated: Feb. 26, 2020 at 9:22 PM EST
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MORNING VIEW, Ky. (FOX19) - A hemp farm in Kentucky is taking a financial hit after its crop tested slightly over the legal threshold for THC.

Foggy Valley Farms spent months growing 20 acres of hemp, but right as they were about to ship it off to a processing plant to be made into CBD oil, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture told them they would have to burn 600 pounds of it.

Hemp is the same plant as marijuana, though it has very little THC, the chemical that produces the plant’s high when smoked or ingested.

Federal law says all hemp must be under .3 percent THC to be legal. When this hemp was tested, says Foggy Valley Farms Owner Greg Marischen, it came back around .41 percent.

That means it will be burned by the KDA.

Marischen says the hemp’s high THC level was out of their control.

“It rained for two months," he explained. "May, June, and then we get out in July, and then it becomes much harder to regulate what the plants are going to do.”

Marischen explains the difference between marijuana and hemp.

“Marijuana, when you grow it, they grow it for around 20-30 percent THC," he said, “and so we’re talking about point-three, zero-point-three.”

So if somebody were to smoke his hemp crop, would they get high?

“No," he said. “You’d have to smoke hundreds, hundreds of joints.”

The hemp that will be burned represents a $40,000 loss for the farm.

“It’s pretty big for a startup farm,” Marischen said.

According to the KDA, 81 percent of the roughly 26,000 acres of hemp in the state tested under the .3 percent threshold this year. The rest is still being tested, but it’s at risk of being burned too.

Martin Smith is the president of the Kentucky Hemp Farmers Association. He says farms across the state are being hit hard this year with their crop testing high.

“When they lose it, they lose their kids’ college tuition, they lose their ability to pay their mortgage or their taxes," Smith explained. “So all of those things can be easily remedied by elevating the definition of industrial hemp.”

That is why his organization is asking the federal government to raise the threshold to 1 percent THC.

Republican Savanah Maddox, Kenton County’s state representative, says the state legislature recently passed a resolution asking the federal government to make that happen.

“I think that it’s something that we need to encourage and to move forward with because there are a variety of products that can be derived from hemp,” Maddox said.

The KDA said in a statement: “We are open to the threshold being increased, but that would take an act of Congress.”

Foggy Valley Farms would like to see a resolution to this problem quickly, so when they start planting next year’s crop they won’t run into the same problem.

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