The primary legislative sponsors of Tennessee’s successful push last session to legalize industrial hemp cultivation say they want the state Department of Agriculture to promote the new crop, not stifle it with regulations and exorbitant licensing fees. Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby and Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains, both Republicans, spoke with TNReport following a hearing the Tennessee Department of Agriculture hosted on Nov. 18 to take public input on how to regulate hemp, which the Legislature OK’d for farm production in 2014. The regulations proposed by state agriculture officials include a $250 annual hemp-growers licensing charge in addition to a $2-an-acre fee, as well as bookkeeping and testing mandates to ensure the crops don’t produce any more than trace levels of psychoactive chemicals.
The federal government has also approved the growing of hemp for research purposes, although it is still technically illegal, as are all strains of the cannabis plant family. Niceley hopes members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation take the lead in supporting an effort to, legally speaking, separate marijuana from hemp, which he said will reduce complications and confusion and potential state-federal conflicts surrounding the issue.