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Hemp farms could come to Arizona sooner than expected

(AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)

PHOENIX — The legality and production of hemp could soon have an accelerated timeline in Arizona.

Congress on Tuesday passed an $867 million farm bill that legalized hemp and took it off the list of Schedule 1 drugs in the United States.

If President Donald Trump signs the bill into law, Arizona farmers could begin to grow hemp prior to the current August 2019 expected start date.

Senate Bill 1098, signed into law in May by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, required a delayed production start date and a provisional schedule for hemp because of its Schedule 1 status.

“We won’t have to have that regulatory structure quite the same as before,” Chelsea McGuire, director of government relations at the Arizona Farm Bureau, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday. “It’s going to facilitate that process in a more streamlined and seamless fashion.”

When Senate Bill 1098 was signed into law, the Arizona Department of Agriculture had a list of provisions it needed to fulfill in order to stay within federal law.

A Schedule 1 drug is defined by the federal government as one with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Included were an establishment of an industrial hemp licensing program and an application and review process for potential growers.

The state set the August 2019 start date to ensure enough time to meet those regulatory guidelines.

“Farmers might have hemp in the ground earlier than anticipated,” McGuire said. “A lot of those demands will be easier to meet because of the farm bill.”

The demand and purpose for hemp in Arizona centers around its ability to be grown in the state’s drought-prone climate.

Clothes, shoes and soap are among the products that can be made from hemp.

“Farmers in Arizona are looking for ways to be innovative because of the climate,” McGuire said. “Hemp is an extremely versatile crop.  There’s a market for it.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report

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