Forum Explores Economic Benefits of Industrial Hemp in Maryland

A forum held in Annapolis explored legalizing industrial hemp in Maryland to reap the benefits of the plant as an agriculture commodity.

Panelists discussed findings from a report, “The Case for Hemp in Maryland: A Misunderstood Plant Takes Root Again,” and the status of hemp at the federal level and in neighboring states — Virginia and Pennsylvania — that have active industrial hemp programs.

The overarching concern was that Maryland was being economically left behind as more states pursue commercial industrial hemp programs. Among other things the plant can be used as fiber, insulation, clothing, food, fuel, and medicine. As of 2017, at least 34 stated have enacted some sort of hemp legislation and 19 are growing hemp for a growing total of 25,541 acres nationwide.

Hemp remains illegal to grow in Maryland although a bill passed in 2016 authorizes farmers to grow hemp only if and when the federal status of hemp changes.

HB 698 introduced by Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo this session, would create a pilot program authorizing the Department of Agriculture or certain higher education institutions to grow, cultivate, harvest, process, manufacture, transport, market, or sell industrial hemp in Maryland. The forum was sponsored by the Abell Foundation.