On Thursday, the Arkansas State Plant Board formally approved rules that will allow farmers to begin growing hemp in the state, according to Arkansas Online. The program was originally approved by the Arkansas General Assembly at the beginning of 2017 but was sidelined for over a year. Arkansas is the 37th state to approve an industrial hemp research program.
Arkansas has been slow to move the program through the steps necessary for implementation. The Plant Board first approved the rules in March, but concerns held by Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson delayed the measure. Hutchinson finally signed off on the rules in May and the program then entered a 30-day public comment period, which ended last week.
The 2018 Farm Bill, which is currently under review in Congress, may make Arkansas’ hemp struggle irrelevant. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has added an amendment to that bill removing hemp from the list of controlled substances and defining it as an agricultural product. The potential federal legalization of industrial hemp would override all existing rules. Congress is expected to vote on the Farm Bill by July 4.