By Laura Leslie, WRAL Capitol Bureau chief
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina agriculture officials envision hemp as a major cash crop for the state, but law enforcement officials told lawmakers Thursday that the push to boost the industry could essentially legalize marijuana because of the difficulty in telling the two cannabis plants apart.
Much of the annual farm bill under consideration in the General Assembly is dedicated to setting up the necessary state infrastructure to regulate hemp production now that the federal government has loosen its restrictions on hemp.
When North Carolina first legalized growing hemp as a pilot project in 2015, the market for the crop was primarily textiles and rope. Since then, however, the fastest growth in the market – and the highest profits – are in smokable hemp products.
Smokable hemp flowers, or so-called pre-rolls, contain CBD but almost no THC, the active compound in marijuana. But they look and smell just like marijuana.