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Minnesota wants farmers to start growing hemp

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The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is looking for farmers to participate in a pilot hemp program ordered by the state legislature last year.

It will be the first time that hemp has been grown legally in Minnesota in 60 years.

However, those interested must provide land, security, a research plan and seeds purchased from another country, reported MPR.

The federal government still considers hemp an illegal drug, but at least 27 states have passed some kind of industrial hemp law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures and VoteHemp.

The purpose of the program is for the MDA or researchers at Minnesota universities to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp. Farmers must provide reports to the MDA on contracts, seed varieties, and records of any sales.

"My hope is that we will have a few acres planted in Minnesota in 2016," Geir Friisoe, Director of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's plant protection division, told MPR. "I think just given some of the challenges we've had I think that's a good start to getting this off the ground."

What is hemp?

While marijuana contains levels of about 15 percent THC – the chemical that produces the high – hemp has very little THC, usually about 0.5 percent, according to LiveScience.

"Industrial hemp is a crop that contains only trace amounts of THC, or psychoactive substances, so people can come in and steal it, but it wouldn't get them much," Andrew Johnmeyer, a farmer from Zumbrota, told ABC 6.

The southern Minnesota farmer is only planting beans and barley this year, and wants to grow industrial hemp for livestock feed.

Hemp is also used to manufacture a variety of products such as oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, and fuel.

Hemp fabrics are stronger, better insulators, and water absorbent Jason Lauve told Live Science. Lauve is the founder and director of Hemp Cleans and author of a bill that established Colorado's industrial hemp pilot program.

"Animal bedding, building materials, petroleum clean up products, car parts, ballistic materials, etc. ... essentially, any product which consumes petroleum can be produced from hemp, and it's renewable," he said.

Minnesota's hemp-growing neighbors

During the 2014-15 crop year, Canada produced almost 75,000 kilotons of hemp, according to the Canadian government's agriculture department. Canadians have legally been growing hemp since 1998, but plants must contain no more than .3 percent of THC.

North Dakota also has the 0.3 percent limit. The state passed a bill two years ago authorizing university researchers to plant and study industrial hemp.

Wisconsin, South Dakota and Iowa do not currently allow the cultivation of hemp.

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