Wyoming close to finalizing hemp rules


CASPER — The Wyoming attorney general said her office is close to gaining approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a statewide hemp-growing plan amid mounting pressure from growers around the state, who have expressed concern they would miss out on the 2020 growing season following the USDA’s previous rejection of an earlier plan.

Submitted last April with immense interest from investors and farmers alike, Wyoming’s hemp plan has been held up on several occasions, due in part to delays within the USDA itself to solidify regulations at the federal level.

Those federal regulations, however, were not finalized until Oct. 31, said Department of Agriculture spokesman Derek Grant, forcing the state – along with several other early adopters around the country – to revisit its plans in order to get itself back in compliance in time to set its plans in motion.

“The problem was that our initial plan that was submitted in April would not receive delegated authority under the framework provided,” he wrote last week. “So USDA gave us the chance to pull our plan back in order to reconcile it with their interim final rule.”

Navigating the complicated regulations around the plant — a close relative to the psychoactive (and illegal) marijuana plant – however, is difficult and, despite the previous work on the plan, any state regulations around hemp must be approved by the chief law enforcement officer in the state (the Wyoming Attorney General) and the governor prior to submission to the USDA, a process that includes a thorough legal review by the A.G.

After a slow process in the attorney general’s office over the winter, some producers in Wyoming have grown anxious. However, Attorney General Bridget Hill said that while work continues on the plan, she anticipates the USDA will likely approve Wyoming’s proposal in time to give the state’s producers ample time to get plants in the ground for this year’s growing season.

“Both the Department of Agriculture and my office are trying to assure that everything is correct and in accordance with the USDA requirements and at the same time also designed to help hemp producers in Wyoming avoid the risk of violating controlled substance laws,” Hill wrote. “In any event, we estimate that something will be approved and filed by the end of the month.”

Some in the state – like the hemp program’s main booster in the Legislature, Rep. Bunky Loucks, R-Casper – have been growing impatient with the timeline, saying they were expecting approval much earlier in January. This has created some tension with growers like Wyoming Hemp Association President Justin Loeffler, who believes Wyoming could be a significant producer for industrial hemp if the state moves quickly and effectively.

Navigating the complicated regulations around the plant — a close relative to the psychoactive (and illegal) marijuana plant – however, is difficult and, despite the previous work on the plan, any state regulations around hemp must be approved by the chief law enforcement officer in the state (the Wyoming Attorney General) and the governor prior to submission to the USDA, a process that includes a thorough legal review by the A.G.

After a slow process in the attorney general’s office over the winter, some producers in Wyoming have grown anxious. However, Attorney General Bridget Hill said that while work continues on the plan, she anticipates the USDA will likely approve Wyoming’s proposal in time to give the state’s producers ample time to get plants in the ground for this year’s growing season.

“Both the Department of Agriculture and my office are trying to assure that everything is correct and in accordance with the USDA requirements and at the same time also designed to help hemp producers in Wyoming avoid the risk of violating controlled substance laws,” Hill wrote. “In any event, we estimate that something will be approved and filed by the end of the month.”

Some in the state – like the hemp program’s main booster in the Legislature, Rep. Bunky Loucks, R-Casper – have been growing impatient with the timeline, saying they were expecting approval much earlier in January. This has created some tension with growers like Wyoming Hemp Association President Justin Loeffler, who believes Wyoming could be a significant producer for industrial hemp if the state moves quickly and effectively.

If not, he said, the state could potentially be missing out on tens of millions of dollars in revenue from this year’s crop alone, while ceding ground to other states who have been given a head start.

“We want to be sure we’re being positive on this, but we also need the local government to understand this is a necessity and a need,” Loeffler said. “There are a lot of people wanting to do this who can create a lot of jobs that want to come into our state that are sitting on their butts. If we’re missing out this year, they’re going to take their dollars somewhere else.”

Others who may have been looking into growing large amounts of hemp for products like CBD, Saratoga-based Wyoming Hemp Growers Association Director Matt Rankin said in a recent interview, may be close to missing their window.

“You would need the mother plants on-site right now, from a grower’s standpoint,” he said. “If they’re willing to wait, yeah, they’ll be fine. But anybody who wants to grow a big field of hemp they’ll hit with their combine … this is going to be a massive hit.

“My product can’t achieve what I want in a bureaucratically narrow time frame,” he added.

Despite the anxiety of some growers, the state is confident its plan – which officials hope will be more thorough than those in other states and with clear guidelines both for growers and law enforcement —will be finalized in time for growers to begin, and gain the experience they need to master hemp-growing practices for future seasons.

“We have consistently been in contact with the USDA and they know our final plan is forthcoming and are confident they can get through the approval process quickly,” Grant said. “Once we have delegated authority from the USDA, the WDA is prepared to hit the ground running on a hemp regulatory program in Wyoming.”

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