Green Bay (WBAY) -- Wisconsin farmers can now apply for a license to grow or process industrial hemp.
The Department of Agriculture and Trade Consumer Protection is now asking that farmers to do their ‘homework’ before diving in. Growers and processors must pass a background check and have no state or federal drug convictions.
Under state law, hemp plants cannot contain more than .3% THC which is the active ingredient in marijuana. Wisconsin is among 31 states where hemp farming is legal. The state legislature passed an industrial hemp bill last November, allowing Wisconsin to set up a pilot program.
“One of the challenges in getting a program put together in three months was that we had so many calls from people that were interested, and trying to answer those questions, which a lot of times we just didn't have answers yet,” said Donna Gilson, Communications Specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Farmers looking to grow or process industrial hemp need to apply for a license by the May 1st deadline this year, pay the fee, and register with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Growers need to also be ready for random inspections, and a sampling 30 days before harvest.
“They'll need to notify us, and we'll send an inspector out who will take samples of every field and if you have more than one variety they'll take samples of every variety, and they'll have to drive that back to Madison, the samples can't be sent through the mail, and drive it to our lab here,” said Gilson.
Gilson says the state will work closely with local law enforcement letting them know where the licensed hemp fields are.
“Once we have determined that there is a low enough THC level, then we'll issue a certificate, which has to accompany the hemp wherever it goes, and it would presumably go to someone who is going to process it as an ingredient some product, whether that's processing it into fiber, into lotion, into whatever product they're going to process it into,” said Gilson.
Gilson said this is all new to a lot of people, so do your homework, make sure you have a place to sell your crop at the end of the season, and don't expect success right away.