By Bob Christie, Associated Press
(AP) — Arizona farmers will soon begin planting hemp as its byproduct – CBD – is exploding in popularity, with some supporters saying it could overtake cotton, a traditional crop in the state, because there’s more money in cannabis.
Farmers can see a big profit boost over standard Arizona crops like cotton or alfalfa, netting $600 per acre compared with about $100 for standard crops like cotton, said Randy Pullen of Arizona’s Hemp Industries Association.
“Economically it’s much more profitable to plant and harvest hemp than it is to plant and harvest cotton or alfalfa,” Pullen said in an interview.
Brian McGrew runs the Arizona’s hemp program and said they are now reviewing applications and expect to begin issuing licenses this week. Seeds could be in the ground by mid-June.
About 200 applications, mainly for growers and processors, had been filed after the official window opened on Friday. McGrew said Wednesday that 35 of those are complete, including the fingerprint clearance card, and the number is rising daily.
The cannabis targeted for Arizona isn’t the same variety as used to make hemp rope, but instead is a strain optimized to produce the most flowers and seeds to process into CBD oils and powders. After the flowers and their seeds are removed and processed, the remaining fiber can be used for animal feed, as a concrete strengthener or as insulation, among other uses, Pullen said.
Farmers and others involved with hemp, including those who harvest, transport and process it, must hold state licenses issued by Arizona Department of Agriculture and get fingerprint clearance cards. Licenses start at $150 for harvesters and transporters and go to $1,500 for a grower and $3,000 for a processor. Fees per acre or per ton of processed material plus testing fees are added on and licenses can be renewed annually.
AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus