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Nevada agriculture official gives Nye overview of hemp

Since the release of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the commercial production of hemp as an agricultural product, a whole new industry has blossomed in America and many members of the Nye County community are determined not to be left behind when it comes to what some call the next big thing in agriculture.

Plenty of Nye County residents and property owners have decided to hitch their interests to the hemp bandwagon, creating a surge of concern from Nye County officials and questions from members of the public who are not well versed in the laws regulating the industry.

For this reason, Nevada Department of Agriculture Crops Program Manager Ashley Jeppson made a trip to Pahrump last month to provide the Nye County Commission and local community with an overview of industrial hemp and the booming business surrounding the plant.

“I know you guys are rampant in hemp,” Jeppson said during the commission’s Aug. 20 meeting. “Hopefully, this will address some questions, but the program is new and constantly evolving so we’re all kind of learning together with this.”

Jeppson’s presentation detailed that as defined by the federal government, industrial hemp is the plant cannabis sativa, which is easily recognizable as the same name given the marijuana plant.

“The big challenge here is, it’s a cannabis plant, it looks exactly the same as marijuana so there have been some industry challenges there but they are in fact different,” Jeppson stated.

In order to be classified as hemp rather than marijuana, the dry weight of the plant must not contain more than 0.3 percent delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the cannabinoid in marijuana that provides psychoactive effects. Hemp is specifically bred to contain less than 0.3 percent of this chemical.

The Nevada Department of Agriculture is responsible for conducting tests on all hemp farm operations in the state to ensure the plants grown thereon do not exceed the legally permitted percentage. As such, all those desiring to produce hemp in Nevada are required to obtain a license from the state. The state provides for three categories of licensure, including handler, grower and seed producer. All seed producers must obtain both a grower’s license and a seed production license.

Hemp has a variety of uses, Jeppson explained, ranging from fiber to hemp seed oil to hemp flour. However, a majority of interest in the plant appears to stem from its cannabidiol content, better known as CBD. Jeppson said CBD is extracted from hemp flower and is anecdotally believed to provide an array of medicinal benefits. Although more research by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is needed, Jeppson detailed that the first pharmaceutical containing CBD, Epidiolex for epilepsy, has already been approved by the FDA.

In Nye County, hemp, as an agricultural product, is currently only allowed to be grown on parcels with residential zoning.

No Nye County codes exist to address the industry at this time and this has prompted much contention in the community between growers and residents neighboring the multitude of hemp farms in the county.

Complaints about the odor of the maturing plants, their proximity to residential homes, use of domestic well water for commercial purposes and more have all been brought to the table.

Thus far, Nye County has not taken any official action to establish its own regulations for the industry as officials had reported that the Nevada Department of Agriculture had indicated it did not wish for the county to get involved in regulating hemp. However, that position has apparently shifted, as Jeppson explained when questioned about the situation during her presentation.

“We got a letter… when hemp started here that essentially came from your department that told us to keep our hands off of hemp. Unfortunately, we obeyed the letter, and now we find ourselves way behind the ball,” Nye County Commission Chairman John Koenig said. “I need some kind of guidance from you in the form of a letter or something that says we can now regulate hemp and to what extent.”

Koenig said hemp is out of control in Nye County, resulting in multiple issues, and he would like the Nevada Department of Agriculture to provide a letter stating the county is at liberty to regulate the industry and more specifically, regulate it in the same manner as marijuana. “I actually get money from marijuana, I get nothing from hemp except aggravated people,” Koenig stated.

Jeppson replied, “It’s within your authority to put limitation on where they (hemp farms) can be… It’s certainly within your means to establish regulations that would allow for this program to fit more what your local needs are… You are welcome to establish those ordinances.”

To review Jeppson’s presentation in its entirety visit www.nyecounty.net and click on the “Meeting Center” link. The document is provided with the Aug. 20 Nye County Commission agenda.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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