By Bart Schaneman, Associated Press
(AP) — Arizona medical marijuana cultivators expressed their concern about cross-pollination from hemp farms earlier this year, which led to some Arizona cities implementing a 10-mile buffer zone between marijuana and hemp cultivation areas. This cross-pollination nightmare is already a reality in some states.
Outdoor marijuana growers in Colorado are reporting an increase in cross-pollination from hemp farms, a development that could mean marijuana cultivators might lose upwards of tens of thousands of dollars if their plants become unsaleable.
According to Wendy Mosher from the Colorado-based seed company New West Genetics, noted that one male in a field a mile away can pollinate a crop, and it can be very difficult to determine the source.
While Colorado is considered generally favorable to hemp compared to other states with marijuana programs, cross-pollination also is happening to hemp-based CBD farms in Colorado, she added.
“It’s just impossible to tell where it’s coming from,” she added.
As the marijuana and hemp industries increasingly share the same cultivation territory, the number of conflicts is likely to increase, particularly in areas with thriving outdoor cannabis cultivation.
Washington state is a case in point. In April, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5276 into law, opening the state up to hemp production in response to the 2018 Farm Bill in part by removing the previous 4-mile buffer between outdoor marijuana grows and hemp farms.
At least one marijuana farmer has experienced firsthand the consequences of this change in the law.
“We took a big hit,” said Robert Morf, an outdoor marijuana cultivator in Washington.
He estimated he will lose about $40,000 this year after his midsized, 600-plant farm was cross-pollinated by pollen from the male plants he said came from a neighboring hemp grower.
According to Morf, his flower is full of seeds, reducing the usable volume and overall quality and value of the crop. He won’t be able to sell it on the wholesale or retail flower market and will take a financial hit by selling it all for extraction.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) acknowledges the cross-pollination issue and has set aside money to address it. In October, the agency awarded $500,000 to a Virginia Tech research team to get better data on pollen drift.
“Having a validated and reliable long-distance transport prediction model for wind-dispersed pollen is critical to establishing appropriate isolation distances,” plant sciences professor David Schmale said in a Virginia Tech statement announcing the grant.
Researchers will use drones to track pollen, hoping results can inform regulations on how far growers should keep hemp and marijuana apart to prevent damaging cross-pollination.
Photo: Robert Jordan, Ole Miss via AP