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North Carolina 2019 farm bill finally OK’d, omits hemp controversy

Charles Bertram/Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina legislators have finally completed the General Assembly’s annual agriculture policy bill that was first debated in 2019.

The Senate gave final approval on Thursday to a compromise measure that also got House support on Wednesday.

An agreement between House and Senate negotiators last summer got waylaid over controversies on hemp production and farmers who want to offer shooting sports on their land. Language addressing both topics were omitted from the final bill now heading to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk for his requested signature.

The main issue over hemp was the legality of smokable hemp, which lacks the concentration of the compound that gives marijuana its high. Law enforcement wanted smokable hemp banned, saying the look and smell make it impossible to differentiate from illegal marijuana in police actions. Farmers who produce it say the crop is profitable.

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The final measure also leaves out a broader regulatory structure to expand industrial hemp production in North Carolina.

Senator Brent Jackson, a Sampson County Republican and chief Senate bill negotiator, said North Carolina hemp will continue to follow rules under a production pilot project. He said retaining the pilot makes sense because federal rules that would expand production have been changing.