Friday, October 7, 2016

Path to industrial hemp program contains excitement and challenge

Emily Febles
Industrial Hemp Research Pilot coordinator

When House Bill 6206 became effective in June, Washington’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot (IHRP) took its first steps on a long journey leading ultimately to planting a state crop that has not been seen in the state for over 70 years. This journey is beginning with thoughtful initial steps to create a stable base from which the program can grow into a robust industry. 

As with any trek, we will encounter challenges along the way. One of our first is obtaining a license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to import industrial hemp seeds. Once we have a license, we will begin choosing the best certified seeds to start Washington’s program with high quality, dependable seed stock. We’ve already been in contact with some industrial hemp seed suppliers around the world. We hope these connections position Washington to plant in spring 2017. 

Along our way, we’re also creating new rules of the road. Travelers accompanying WSDA on this path are farmers, business operators, researchers, backyard growers, elected officials and others. By working together on rulemaking, we’ll design the most sustainable program to take us into the future. 

Learning and connecting on our way
Washington's Industrial Hemp Research Pilot coordinator, Emily
Febles, presenting at a WSU conference on Sept. 30

We’re already learning useful things along our way. For instance, I recently participated on a panel at a Washington State University forum focused on cannabis research opportunities. The opportunity allowed me to meet and build relationships with many WSU researchers and scientists who will be vital to meeting the research goals of this new program.

The federal government seems to have a growing acceptance of industrial hemp, when it’s grown in compliance with federal law. For example, the USDA recently released information on how to certify industrial hemp as organic and how universities can get federal funding to study industrial hemp agriculture.

I’ve been fortunate to meet and speak with many of you who are interested in building this new program. Interest and enthusiasm levels are high. I encourage anyone who wants to keep updated on the status of this historic voyage to email and join the IHRP email list. 

Together we’ll keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other.