With the passage of the 2018 United States farm bill, hemp went from a Schedule 1 drug, listed on the 1971 Controlled Substance Act, to an agricultural commodity with thousands of uses to include health and dietary applications as well building materials, clothing and even plastics.
“These are trying times in New Jersey and across the country,” stated New Jersey CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) president, Scott Rudder. “But we need to press on where we can. Considering New Jersey was one of the first three states to have their hemp program approved by the USDA, we need to embrace this opportunity as an industry and do our part to ensure a successful rollout of the state’s program.”
While prevalent during early Colonial times and up until the 1930s and 1940s, hemp has seen limited use due to its decades-long designation as a controlled substance. To offer guidance and industry insight to help New Jersey launch its first hemp program, the NJCBA formed a policy committee, made up of established industry subject matter experts, to help tackle some of the challenges that will naturally arise as the hemp program progresses.
The founding members of the Hemp Policy committee include:
“Launching an industry is no easy task, particularly in these challenging times,” said Ken VandeVrede. “There are a lot of hurdles ahead, both known and unknown. Pulling industry resources and subject matter experts together to provide insight and feedback to federal, state and local officials will help ensure the road bumps are fewer and the rollout is smoother. We only get one chance to effectively launch an industry. We want to make sure we get this right the first time.”
“We are finally re-learning the health benefits of hemp,” said Faye Coleman. “Our bodies are designed to interact positively with hemp and its multitude of cannabinoids, to include CBD. Each of us has an endocannabinoid system that reacts positively with hemp and it’s important that as we move forward as an industry, education and research take center stage.”
Sam Redlich stated, “Due to the complexities of working with a plant that only recently became available to be grown, processed and sold, many farmers and business operators have questions and concerns that need to be addressed. Some banks, for example, remain hesitant to work with hemp businesses due to its historical designation. Part of our focus will be to work with traditional institutions and lawmakers to make the transition from a banned plant to a top agricultural product, as smooth as possible.”
“Understanding the needs of the farmer, establishing supply chain channels, processing, and testing procedures, these are just a few of the areas we want to address,” said Chuck Romanoli. “As growers and processors ourselves, we believe we are in the best position to give feedback to state and federal officials regarding what is working and what needs adjustment when it comes to laws and regulations.”
“The federal government is still undergoing the rulemaking process both at the USDA and FDA as mandated in the 2018 Farm Bill (PL 115-334),” added Brett Goldman, VP of Government and Industry at GenCanna. “It is incumbent upon us to work with all levels of government to create consistent and fair rules and regulations. Hemp has the ability to positively impact our health, our environment, and our economy. We want to encourage more farmers to be involved in the hemp industry with clear economic opportunities for their efforts. Developing fair, clear and achievable guidelines as we move forward, is critically important.”
Education and advocacy are essential elements to establishing any new industry. Hemp, due to it being in the cannabis family, has more hurdles than most. Hemp, best known for producing CBD but has thousands of more applications, is, in fact, cannabis but with a THC (a psychoactive compound) level of .3% or less.
“I am very excited that we have a team of experts that have stepped up to get New Jersey’s hemp industry off the ground,” added Rudder. “We will need the thought leadership and practical experience that this team brings to the table in the days, months and years ahead. When you consider that all hemp is cannabis, but not all cannabis is hemp, one can appreciate some of the challenges that might occur with banking, insurance, and law enforcement. Our mission will be to help resolve these challenges and make the hemp industry a robust industry here in the Garden State.”