New push to ban smokeable hemp could cost NC farmers thousands

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- North Carolina farmers are worried about their new cash crop.

A new push to ban smokeable hemp could cost them thousands of dollars.

"I've been a tobacco farmer my whole life," Mick Morgan said.

These days, his farm in High Point looks a lot different.

"I'm glad I'm now on the other end of this," Morgan said.

His land is now overgrowing with hemp.

Last year was the first time Healing Hemp Farms started growing the new cash crop. They made a profit in just the first year and decided to expand.

It's an investment.

"We went from 13 acres last year to 55 acres this year," Morgan said. "You can easily sink $12-15,000 per acre in it."

But he thinks it's well worth it.

The business was growing so quickly, the Morgans opened a new store in Archdale.

The most popular product? Smokeable hemp.

"About 20-30% of our sales right now are smoking bud," Morgan said.

That could change.

The North Carolina legislature is pushing for a ban on smokeable hemp, saying it's too difficult for law enforcement officers to differentiate from marijuana.

"Oh, it would bankrupt us. It would totally bankrupt us," Morgan said.

Bob Crumley, the CEO of Founder's Hemp and the owner of Everything Hemp, believes these effects would be widespread.

"There was a 548% increase of hemp farmers that were permitted in the state. This is now an over $200 million a year industry not counting retail sales," Crumley said.

He doesn't just have financial concerns.

"This is not college kids smoking hemp. These are adults over the age of 50 who have cancer, who have Parkinson's," Crumley said. "They don't want to get high. They want to feel better."

Crumley hopes legislators learn lessons from other states.

"Virginia has already implemented roadside test kits for their officers to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana," Crumley said. "They exist and they can be used by our state."

The ban has passed the House, but still needs to be sent to the Senate.

If it goes through, the ban will go into effect May 1, 2020.

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