By Brandon Moseley

Friday, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries announced that it is accepting applications from Alabama hemp growers, processors/handlers and universities, to apply for an industrial hemp license starting, Tuesday, October 12.

Applications will only be accepted online through the Kelly Registration System (KRS) at Registration opens on Tuesday, October 12, 2021, at 8:00 am CST. The final day to apply for a hemp license is November 29, 2021, by 5:00 pm CST.

“This is the department’s fourth year to administer the hemp program," said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate. "It has always been our goal to manage the program in a fair and timely manner to benefit Alabama farmers and hemp producers and develop industrial hemp as an alternative crop."

Chey Garrigan is the president and executive director of the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association.

"We are excited to be heading into our fourth year of legal hemp production in Alabama," Garrigan said. "Rick Pate and the team at the Alabama Department of Agriculture do a great job working with us. I encourage all of our hemp growers and processors to get registered early in the application window."

In 2016, the Alabama Legislature passed the Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Program Act, Section 2-8-380 Code of Alabama 1975, tasking ADAI with the development of a licensing and inspection program for the production of industrial hemp. The program launched in 2019, after The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (i.e. Farm Bill) declassified hemp as a schedule I drug and deemed hemp as an agriculture commodity. This legislation defines hemp as all parts of the plant containing less than 0.3% THC, including derivatives, extracts, and cannabinoids.

Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. Cannabis has been cultivated for a myriad of uses for thousands of years. Hemp fibers can be used to make textiles, horse bedding, ropes, flooring, paper, flooring, car parts, and many other things. The female plants can be grown absent from the males to produce cannabis flowers. The flowers are then harvested for their oil, which is processed into CBD oil and sold over the counter as a supplement or therapeutic. Most of the hemp grown in Alabama currently is for CBD oil.

Some fiber hemp growers object to their industry being regulated by the state.

“We have no intention on applying for licenses to grow fiber or refine hemp for fiber,” said Winfield hemp grower Robert Speller. “There is NO licenses needed to grow fiber.  It has NOTHING to do with CBD or THC.”

“LEAVE  Industrial Hemp alone,” Speller added. “That is if the State WANTS  new industry and farm products in our state. If not, like everything else I will put this INDUSTRY in Mississippi.”

Next year, the Alabama Medical Marijuana Commission will begin awarding medical marijuana licenses to a handful of growers and processors. Persons with a demonstrated medical need can obtain certain approved medical marijuana products with the recommendation of a specially licensed doctor. The persons in the state most qualified to grow or process medical marijuana will most likely be hemp growers, but past experience with hemp is not a requirement to obtain a medical marijuana license. Hemp that is being grown for CBD oil cannot be grown near either marijuana or hemp being grown for fiber due to cross-pollination that would result in the hemp flowers going to seed.

"We at the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association look forward to working with Commissioner John McMillan and the Commission as they write the rules for Alabama's first lawfully grown medical cannabis crop," Garrigan said. "The important thing is to get people with a medical need the help that they need."

Melissa Mullins is the President of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition.

"In May 2021, the Alabama Legislature passed Alabama’s 1st ever Medical Cannabis Program, The Darren Wesley 'Ato' Hall Compassion Act," Mullins said. "Alabama Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition and Alabama Cannabis Coalition worked very hard to help advance and push the bill through the Legislature by using citizen and patient advocacy."

"Our Alabama patients, citizens and farmers are our 1st and top priority," Mullins said. "We are going to be pushing hard in the 2022 Legislative session for more access and more freedom. God has a plan and we are going to follow that plan."

For anyone without a license, it is illegal to grow either hemp or marijuana in Alabama.

For more information and updates, please visit ADAI will receive Industrial Hemp applications until 5:00 pm (CT) on November 29, 2021.