Industrial hemp was made legal in North Carolina last week as a result of Gov. Pat McCrory not vetoing or signing the bill after allowing it to sit on his desk for weeks. 

The text of Senate Bill 313 states: “The General Assembly finds and declares that it is in the best interest of the citizens of North Carolina to promote and encourage the development of an industrial hemp industry in the State in order to expand employment, promote economic activity, and provide opportunities to small farmers for an environmentally sustainable and profitable use of crop lands that might otherwise be lost to agricultural production.”

The bill also mandates the creation of the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission. This entity will have the responsibility to “establish procedures for reporting to the Commission … for agricultural or academic research and to collaborate and coordinate research efforts with the appropriate departments or programs of North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University.”

Lee Edwards, a farmer from Kinston, North Carolina, told The Charlotte Observer he is eager to begin producing hemp.

“Hemp really gives us a crop during the summertime that is a viable cash crop to us,” Edwards said. “We’re in a perfect geographical location for the production of hemp with our climate.”

Hemp can be used in a wide range of products from clothing and medicine to a more environmentally friendly alternative to concrete. 

As a result of the 2014 Farm Bill, it is legal for individual states to produce hemp for academic research, but any other use of hemp still falls under the same classification with marijuana, heroin, DMT, LSD and ecstasy as part of Schedule I of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act signed into law by President Richard Nixon, which still determines the actions of the DEA.

Hemp contains only 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive chemical in Cannabis, whereas recreational marijuana can contain up to 30 percent, according to a recent study of Colorado’s pot market. 

Despite this fact, many lawmakers still consider hemp to be synonymous with marijuana, or at least the first step toward full marijuana legalization in North Carolina.

The N.C. Sheriff’s Association supports the legislation because industrial hemp farmers would need a permit, administered by the new Industrial Hemp Commission under federal rules, which would allow authorities to know where the legitimate growers are, according to The Charlotte Observer.