The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries said 180 applications were approved to grow industrial hemp in Alabama.
Industrial hemp is a type of cannabis plant and is in the same family as marijuana. Advocates said it can be used to create products including oils, car parts and clothing.
McMillan Arrington is the owner of Southern Hemp Inc. and had his application approved.
“I’d like to see hemp used to the fullest extent,” Arrington said. “Anything from cosmetics to medics to food products to paper products.”
He wants to grow industrial hemp so he can help create textile products.
The department commissioner, Rick Pate, said it approved the applications as part of a pilot program to grow industrial hemp. He said there are still many unknowns in the program. For instance, Pate said it is unclear if there will be people to buy the hemp once it’s grown.
“We’re not telling people there is that market,” Pate said. “Potentially there is.”
Once the hemp plant is grown, it is sent to a processor as part of the process to be molded into a product.
Arrington said he does not know of any processors in Alabama. He cautions people before they decide to grow hemp.
“I would say that if you’re going to grow hemp you need to know who is going to process it for you or who’s going to buy it for you before you put a seed in the ground, before you spend any money on this,” he said.
Pate said 65 processors had their applications approved, but questions still linger.
“How long will it take to get the processing plants ready? Will they be ready by this fall or the spring?” Pate said.
He said before they can receive a license to grow, the applicants need to pay $1,000 to the department and take a class.
Pate said once people begin planting industrial hemp, the department will check to make sure they are planting it legally. The plant can’t have more than a certain amount of THC.
He also said the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will have access to the GPS locations of all of the plots to make sure there is not any illegal activity. People might begin growing as early as April.