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Food And Farm Industrial Hemp

A volunteer walks through a hemp field at a farm in Springfield, Colorado. Lawmakers in Wyoming are working on a regulatory framework to make it easier for farmers to grow the crop here. 

A new global trend in agriculture, and an untapped market in much of the United States, may soon be a lucrative opportunity for Wyoming’s farmers.

Hemp, a variety of the Cannabis plant, is a multipurpose crop that has been growing in popularity. The global market for hemp in 2017 was estimated at nearly $4 billion and expected to continue growing over the next several decades.

And in the U.S., recent federal legislation has given hemp the legal go-ahead. Previously, hemp was considered a controlled substance because of its associations with marijuana. However, new laws have removed that classification, and some believe that hemp is the future of American agriculture.

Hemp can’t get you high – but it can be used to make thousands of products. Right now, Kentucky is producing the bulk of the nation’s hemp. But Wyoming’s climate is more suitable for hemp growth than Kentucky’s.

Several lawmakers, including Casper Republican Bunky Loucks, would like to see the Cowboy State capitalize on that.

Loucks’ bill would provide the regulatory framework for the hemp industry in Wyoming. And because hemp is still so new and niche, Wyoming producers would be able to set the costs of their products. They’s also be able to get out in front of potential competitors in other, less responsive states.

This initiative seems like a win-win. Wyoming’s farmers — long limited in the crops they can produce by the state’s arid climate — should be able to tap into this new lucrative industry if they choose to. It could be a boon for the whole state.

We hope that lawmakers don’t let an antiquated misconception guide their thinking on this. Despite their relationship, hemp and marijuana are not one and the same, and they shouldn’t be confused. And hemp, unlike marijuana, is legally sanctioned by the federal government.

Wyoming has a chance to be at the forefront of this movement, rather than lagging behind. Lawmakers would be wise to take advantage of this opportunity.

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