Theft Is Just One Problem with Pennsylvania’s Growing Hemp Industry

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Theft Is Just One Problem with Pennsylvania’s Growing Hemp Industry

*Farm Fresh Media Staff Writer

The small town of Honeybrook, Pennsylvania isn’t a big manufacturing hub or a large local economy, but it is a center for farmers who grow all kinds of crops in the lush land in the surrounding Chester County area.

Now the local Phoenixville News is reporting some Amish farmers in Honeybrook are turning to a new crop based on recently decriminalized hemp production within the state.

A July 31 report shows these farmers are experiencing product loss, with unknown individuals jumping fences and stealing plants right out of the ground.

Surveyed farmers put the cost of each hemp plant at 5 to 6 dollars, and say this is the first year they have been growing the cash crop which can be used to make all sorts of consumer products. Farmers have put up electric fences and signage to stop thieves.

Taking an ironic tongue-in-cheek approach to the crop theft, Phoenixville reporters suggest that the thieves will be disappointed when they ‘can’t get high’ – that’s because the hemp plants do not have the THC that is the psychoactive ingredient in traditional marijuana.

Why Is Hemp Legal?

Theft is just one obstacle that local farmers have to deal with in the process of cultivating nearly 600 acres of existing hemp production within the state.

The Phoenixville story also shows (near the end of the piece) that farmers do have to be licensed to grow hemp, and that 300 farms across the state have been licensed to grow this plant this year.

The state didn’t just allow farmers to start growing hemp out of the goodness of its heart – and the general assembly didn’t suddenly decide that there’s no harm in growing this sustainable plant which might remove millions of pounds of plastics from future landfills.

Instead, a federal 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from regulation under the Controlled Substances Act (which makes sense, because it has no THC!) and states followed suit in setting up a regulatory framework.

Regulatory Boondoggles

However, true to form, the state has apparently botched the job of providing a consistent path for farmer licensing for hemp. A June 14 report in the Marijuana Business Daily web site shows that observation of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana industry led to the opinion that  the process is so filled with “significant errors and irregularities” that those applying for licensing may be able to get in by accusing the state of mishandling.

Even an official FAQ provided by Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture covers itself with the disclaimer that “the following information is provided as a guide and is not a legal interpretation of the act.”

Also, the 2019 Industrial Hemp Program Permit Application doesn’t exist on the state website!

You don’t have to look much further than that to see what a Kafkaesque revolving circus Pennsylvania’s marijuana and hemp programs have become.

However, some case studies are instructive – here’s a story (also from Marijuana Business Daily) where the state found a licensee was not able to account for where the plants went. Assuming that the company may have siphoned off some of its crop to the black market, where marijuana fetches artificially high prices, the state mandated various security protocols and tried to stem the flow with inspections.

The bottom line, as pointed out by some citizens at large commenting on the above stories, is that the state’s handling of hemp and marijuana belies a need for strict control and a lack of practical common sense. Individuals can’t just grow these plants – they have to send non-existing application forms to state offices and wait for a chaotic process to do whatever it does out of sight of Main Street and according to protocols that have been slapped together under duress.

Every time you see a hemp farm in Pennsylvania, what you’re looking at is the resilience of entrepreneurial spirit under dizzyingly inept state regulation.

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