CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Hemp is growing in popularity for its oil and other byproducts, and farmers of the crop believe it may be the future of North Carolina agriculture.
Until recently, it was illegal to grow.
Union County farmer Everette Little is considering turning his chicken houses into greenhouses to grow the plant.
He planted hemp in a nearby field to test it out.
“In the next five or so years, you're looking at a $5 (billion) to $8 billion industry,” Little said. “You know, 85 percent of the hemp used in the U.S. up until the last couple of years, was imported. That is something that got my attention.”
Little is not the only farmer who is interested in the opportunity.
More than 700 farmers have registered as industrial hemp growers with the state's pilot research program.
However, they are finding out that growing conditions can be tricky.
Lorenzo McNulty, with Keep it Hemple, said the learning curve to the science is steep.
McNulty’s company sells CBD oil, which is derived from the hemp seed. CBD oil, extracted from the marijuana plant, does not have enough THC to cause a psychoactive “high.”
Government regulations are struggling to keep up with the demand for hemp products.
Customers can't be sure what they're getting from one retailer to the next, McNulty said.
Keep it Hemple tests its products for contaminants but not because they have to, McNulty said.
“We're doing that because we feel connected to the community,” McNulty said.
People rave about the hemp's health benefits, which include limiting seizures for children with epilepsy to relieving anxiety, inflammation and pain in adults.
Without a green light from the Food and Drug Administration, companies can't make medical claims, so retailers must rely on word-of-mouth advertising.
McNulty welcomes more government oversight, so people don't have to search as long as he did for solutions.
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