Murphy signs bill creating pilot program for hemp farming

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill to begin a pilot program for New Jersey farmers to produce industrial hemp.

The variety of the cannabis plant used for industrial hemp is increasingly in demand for the agriculture sector as demand for products that use it has increased and farmers are eyeing it as a way to diversify their crop portfolio.

The bill, sponsored by former Assemblyman and current Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, as well as Assemblywomen Nancy Pinkin (D-Edison), Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton) and Sens. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Holmdel) and Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Twp.), recognizes the needs of the agricultural sector.

The pilot program calls for rules to ensure that growers are not subject to criminal penalties and that federal guidelines and legal growing limits are followed.

In addition, the pilot program allows for collaboration with higher education institutions.

“The department may partner with any qualified institution of higher education to administer the program; however, any person participating in the program must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the secretary of agriculture that the person has complied with all federal requirements related to the cultivation of industrial hemp,” according to the law.

The collaborations will also help the farmers learn how to grow the crop better.

“Industrial hemp is used in a wide variety of products, including textiles, construction materials and foodstuffs,” according to the bill.

“The demand for these goods is growing at the state and national level and hemp can be a viable agricultural crop in the state. The ability to grow hemp on an industrial scale would allow farmers to diversify their products by adding a lucrative cash crop and researching cultivation methods of industrial hemp would greatly aid farmers seeking to grow hemp for the first time.”