Federal government OKs hemp seeds for Washington state

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The Washington State Department of Agriculture has received approval from federal authorities to import hemp seeds, paving the way for farmers to experiment with the cannabis crop.

“It’s a real, real possibility we’ll have a spring planting of hemp,” WSDA hemp coordinator Emily Febles said Wednesday.

WSDA has proposed rules for hemp and hopes to issue licenses to growers, seed distributors and processors as early as mid-May. The program, however, depended on receiving a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration to allow privately purchased hemp seeds to enter the state under WSDA’s supervision. Hemp seeds are a federally controlled substance.

Hemp advocate Joy Beckerman, who has advised lawmakers on staying within federal guidelines, said she was overwhelmed by the news of DEA’s approval. “It is so thrilling and relieving,” she said.

Beckerman said that she anticipated no shortage of hemp seeds from Canada, particularly because a small number of acres are likely to be planted in Washington this year.

Health Canada, a federal agency, lists 46 hemp cultivars approved for planting in that country.

Febles said Italy and the Ukraine also are potential sources for seeds.

Hemp is grown in other states, including Oregon, but DEA won’t allow hemp seeds to cross state lines, Febles said.

WSDA will have to renew its DEA permit annually, though Febles said she did not expect renewing the permit will be as time-consuming as obtaining the permit. WSDA applied for the permit in August.

Washington joins several other states that have received DEA approval to import hemp seeds. Washington has tailored its program to remain within the 2014 Farm Bill, which authorized state agriculture departments and universities to oversee hemp programs.

Hemp will be a regulated crop, with WSDA overseeing seed shipments.

Seeds could be sent directly to a farm or to a secure WSDA storage locker in Spokane. The seeds must be planted under WSDA’s supervision within 24 hours of being received or picked up, Febles said.

Growers, seed distributors and processors will have to pay a $450 application fee, plus $300 a year for licenses. WSDA also will charge for field inspections and seed tests. People who have been convicted of a drug-related felony within the past 10 years will be ineligible for licenses.

WSDA proposes to have unrestricted access to fields. Hemp can’t be grown within 4 miles of a marijuana farm, according to WSDA’s proposed rules.

WSDA will have two hearings on the hemp rules.

The hearings will be 11 a.m. April 6 at WSDA, conference room 238, 21 North First Ave., Yakima; and 11 a.m. April 7 at WSDA, conference room 259, 1111 Washington St. SE, Olympia.

Don JenkinsCapital Press

Published on March 14, 2017 9:47AM


Photo Courtesy of USDA