The state’s recent forays into growing hemp mark a return to a once-successful practice, according to Leslie Hart.
“In the 1930s, hemp was produced in Washington County. It was a very good crop. … It (still) has the potential to be a pretty good commodity crop,” said Hart, who specializes in agricultural issues for the Washington County Department of Business Development.
Hemp refers to the fiber and seed parts of the Cannabis sativa L. plant. It is different from marijuana, the flower portion.
For the past several decades, growing hemp has been illegal. But Hart said that is changing.
“It is separate from marijuana,” Hart said. “Hemp has so many great uses. … And it’s all natural.”
The department will host a workshop, “Everything About Hemp,” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, south of Hagerstown.
Farmers and bankers will join other speakers, including representatives from the University of Maryland and the Maryland Department of Agriculture, to address topics such as “Growing Hemp in Maryland,” “Hemp Finance, Investing and Banking” and “CBD 101: Basics of Product Navigation.”
CBD, which is found in an increasing number of products, is one of the substances derived from the plant.
People have cultivated hemp for thousands of years, according to the Maryland Hemp Coalition, an organization that advocates for a free market for industrial hemp.
Hemp is grown differently from marijuana, the coalition states.
Industrial hemp is a row crop, grown specifically to harvest fiber and seeds, according to the coalition. The materials have a range of uses, from rope to animal bedding, and from food supplements to clothing.
There’s even a product called “hempcrete,” a composite material used for construction and insulation, Hart said.
Hart said 2019 is a “learning year” for growing hemp.
The 2018 U.S. farm bill removed hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list. But before hemp can be a legal crop, states must develop hemp production plans.
Maryland has established a pilot program to research industrial hemp.
Hart said five Washington County farmers are growing hemp this year.