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191 farmers get permission to plant hemp plants in Ohio

Hemp farm in Columbia Station.
Posted at 9:55 AM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 19:07:30-04

COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio — After what farmers say was a lot of excitement before the hemp cultivation application process, only 191 Ohio farmers received permission to grow hemp after 207 across the state applied.

Many of those farmers are preparing to plant their first crop in what will be the first growing season where hemp can be legally harvested.

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Paul and Barbara Bartrug walk through part of their property where they plan on planting hemp.

“A lot of farmers backed out, which is OK,” said Hickory Ridge Farms co-owner Paul Bartrug.

Bartrug says at early meetings for farmers interested in growing hemp, there were many more than in more recent meetings.

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Orange flags mark the clearing where Paul plans to plant hemp in the next few weeks.

In other states, the market for hemp has fluctuated. In Illinois, reports say initial hemp prices of $40 per pound dropped as low as $5 per pound.

Beyond the fluctuating market, hemp is hard to grow.

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Paul is using only two acres of his 70-acre property or hemp, making sure he has other income he can rely on if hemp sales don't bring in as much money as he expects.

“It has the potential to make a lot more money than hay, of course, it is more work,” said Bartrug.

It’s more work because hemp requires close monitoring to make sure it’s legal once it’s grown.

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Bartrug rents part of his land out for traditional crops, uses other fields for hay, and cares for horses on his property.

Hemp and marijuana both come from the cannabis plant but the main difference is how much THC each one contains.

THC is the compound in a marijuana plant that gets users high. Hemp is only allowed to have less than .3% THC, preventing it from having any psychoactive effect.

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If state testing shows that a hemp crop has too much THC before harvesting, Ohio farmers will have to destroy it all.

“Yeah, and then you’re just done,” said Bartrug.

That’s why Bartrug is using only two of his 70 acres for hemp, basically just dipping his foot into the new business. He says he’s spent about $10,000 already on soil testing, equipment, and fees. He says that preparation and the relatively small piece of his farm that is being used for hemp will prevent him from running into the same issues that farmers in other states have encountered.

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Hemp grown in fields like Bartrug's can eventually become CBD gels, tinctures, or lotions like the kind sold by HempOhio.

“They just thought it was raising corn,” said Bartrug. “Some of those guys planted 50 acres and lost it.”

Once Bartrug is able to successfully grow and sell his hemp, his product will go to a processor to turn the raw flower into a gummy, oil, lotion, or other product that customers can use.

“The last thing you want to do is harm,” said HempOhio’s Mel Kurtz.

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Kurtz shows some of HempOhio's Zativa product at the company's Independence facility.

HempOhio is a hemp processor that’s already producing it’s Zativa line of hemp products.

HempOhio partnered with a company called HempRise, a hemp processor based in Southern Indiana. HempRise helps companies and farmers cultivate hemp, extract raw CBD and other cannabinoids, and test its quality so brands like HempOhio can turn the extract into products customers can use.

“Our job is to make sure that the farmers’ product is right, our product is right, and our customers' [product], which is the end product that goes to the consumers, is correct in what it says on the label,” said HempRise Vice President Charlie Bowman.

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"Liquid Gold": Bowman tells News 5 this small bottle of hemp extract is worth a few thousand dollars because of how concentrated it is and how many products it can be used to create.

That’s important because News 5 has reported before, the labels on CBD products in stores are often found to be inaccurate. The products inside often have different levels of CBD.

To avoid that problem in HempOhio products, HempOhio and HempRise say they test their product multiple times throughout processing to make sure it maintains its quality.

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HempOhio has machines to do small extractions, helping research and development for future products.

“We have third-party verification, just to confirm it,” said Kurtz. “Check the checker.”

The Ohio Department of Agriculture oversees Ohio’s Hemp program. It tells News 5 they are now able to test CBD products in Ohio stores and have a process to remove any products that are improperly labeled.