Special Report: Let's Grow Hemp!

    The Tar Heel state is in the process of bringing back one of this nation's most controversial crops. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

    It's one of the oldest and most versatile plants known to mankind, but long illegal in the United States.

    Industrial hemp played a major role fiber products for the U.S. military during World War II but was eventually made illegal because it comes from the same plant as marijuana, Cannabis Sativa.

    But now hemp is now possibly making a comeback, with research being done at places like the University of Kentucky.

    The agriculture department there is working to redevelop an industry abandoned decades ago.

    A pilot program to start growing is now underway in North Carolina, farmers applying for permits, but hitting a roadblock.

    The North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission was formed this past March to consider applications.

    The nine-member state panel has already approved some of them, but the Drug Enforcement Administration is taking the stance that bringing seeds or seedlings across state lines would violate federal law.

    “This is the right crop at the right time in North Carolina," said Brian Bullman, founder and owner of Carolina Hemp Company in Asheville.

    He distributes of hemp-based products, many of them homeopathic remedies made with CBD, Cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive byproduct of the Cannabis plant.

    All of the products Carolina Hemp offers must now be imported, and Bullman believes bringing industrial hemp closer to home would be cost-effective, and the right thing to do.

    Buncombe County farmer Frances Tacy agrees, saying “it is just something we've been thinking about for so long, and I can't believe we finally have this opportunity."

    Tacy runs an 18-acre eco-farm in Leicester and is optimistic that once the DEA hurdle is cleared, industrial hemp is going to happen soon.

    "We know that we're planting this season, and we will harvest this season, and we will learn this season, and we'll take it from there."

    “What they say about hemp is that it wears in, not out,” said Leanna Echeverri, the owner of Grateful Threads in Asheville’s River Arts District.

    Echeverri must order and ship all the hemp fabric for the clothing she makes from California.

    On top of lowering that cost, she says she would like to contribute to the economy of the place she calls home.

    “Supporting the people that live in your community, I would much rather do that if I had the opportunity.

    At this point, the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission has voted to request a temporary restraining order, against the DEA’s delay of import permits for hemp seeds and seedlings.

    A lawsuit could be the next step, to be determined by the NC Attorney General.

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