LOGAN – Since Utah legalized growing hemp in 2018, the cannabis look-alike is being cultivated all over the state. Hemp does not have the same psychoactive drug or intoxicating form as cannabis, and is legal to grow in Utah.
In December 2018, Utah lawmakers legalized possession of hemp extract with less than 0.3 percent of THC or CBD oil. It is being grown in Cache Valley, said Dr. Bruce Bugbee, the director of Crop Physiology at Utah State University.
“There are 10 licensed hemp growers in Cache Valley and almost 200 growers statewide,” Bugbee said. “All of them are growing medical hemp for pharmaceutical use.”
The professor said there are numerous uses of hemp, including fabrics and structural uses, but the highest value is for extraction and pharmaceutical use.
Bugbee said Mitchell Westmoreland, a graduate student at Utah State University, has been working with hemp and has a handle on the scientific uses of the plant.
Westmoreland said he got involved in hemp production and analyzation after he was searching for graduate schools this past spring.
“I came across a news article about the new hemp research program led by Dr. Bugbee and recognized the potential to be on the cutting edge of an exciting and emerging field,” he said. “There is a lot of misinformation in the world of hemp and cannabis in general.”
Westmoreland said hemp cultivation is very exciting and has the potential to benefit farmers tremendously here in Cache Valley and around the state.
“Since I started working on this project at the beginning of August, I have made attempts to reach out to local growers,” he said. “Some growers are enthusiastic to talk with me, others are a little wary.”
There are over 200 acres of hemp under cultivation in the state.
“Virtually all of the hemp in Utah will be sold to produce CBD oil,” he said. “It has many purported health benefits and has dramatically increased in popularity recently.”
Westmoreland said his goal was to provide farmers and the public with rigorously tested, evidence-based answers about how to make this a successful and profitable crop in Utah.
THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active chemical in cannabis and is a hallucinogenic. THC comes from the flowering tops and leaves of the cannabis plant.
“Hemp plants have 0.3 percent of THC and, at the high end, 18 percent to 10 percent CBD or Cannabidiol depending on how it is cultivated,” he said. “CBD oils have medical properties to help child seizures, anxiety, depression, some pain and a host of other benefits.”
If the grower happens to harvest hemp that exceeds 0.3 percent of THC, the plant must be destroyed.
A grower can get about 10 cents a pound for alfalfa and about $20 a pound for hemp.
“The prices are pretty variable, but right now we are about $20 a pound,” Westmoreland said.
The hemp grown at USU will be sent to the water lab to be analyzed. They are storing their hemp for the time being.
“Hemp has the potential to help a lot of people,” Westmoreland said. “It’s exciting and crazy at the same time.”