Hemp investors bemoan ‘bureaucratic red tape’

For the past few years, Sam Chick — owner of the smoke and vape shop “Puffster” in Dover — has been excited by the prospect of selling Delaware-grown hemp products in his store.

He’s been glued to the legislative developments, both nationally and in the state, that would make this possible.

Last year, the General Assembly green-lit SB 266 that cleared the way for commercial growing of the plant ahead of the federal farm bill — passed in December — that accomplished the same on the national level.

Hemp, not to be confused with marijuana, has a wide range of uses including as fibers, textiles, paper, construction and insulation materials, cosmetic products, a “natural remedy” for certain ailments, animal feed, food and beverages.

Although hemp and marijuana are both varieties of cannabis sativa — one of the three main subtypes of the cannabis plant — hemp has a much lower amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that causes the intoxication.

Puffster, just over a year old, mostly sells hemp-derived Cannabidiol (CBD) products, says Mr. Chick. Embraced by users for its alleged medicinal value, CBD is thought to be effective in treating anxiety, seizures related to epilepsy, chronic pain and several other maladies.

Though the way forward is now clear, Mr. Chick, a potential investor himself, and some farmers are disappointed with the new Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) regulatory structure announced last week.

The state’s new regulations bar commercial production of hemp for the 2019 growing season in favor of a limited “Hemp Research Pilot Program.” Interested growers must fill out an application, partner with Delaware State University (DSU) for research purposes and grow no more that 10 acres of hemp per approved organization. Though “general commercial activity” is still banned, the regulations will allow participating growers to sell their crop “if all research requirements are met.”

Calling the regulation “bureaucratic red tape,” Mr. Chick says they may limit investment and scuttle what could be the state’s first commercial growing season.

“The Ag Department should just get out of the way right now and let people do what they want,” he said.

A farmer west of Dover, John Foltz, agrees. While he’s pleased the state is setting guidelines, he wishes they were less restrictive.

Read more of this Delaware State News article by Ian Gronau by clicking here.