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Hemp farmers are growing Ohio’s first legal crop of hemp and learning how to do it along the way

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Posted at 7:06 AM, Jul 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-10 23:12:29-04

DIAMOND, Ohio — Parts of Ohio’s vast farmland look a little different this year with acres or portions of acres growing cannabis plants in the ground.

Just a year ago, it would have been the kind of a sight that might spark a law enforcement raid. Now, it’s a sign that growing hemp can yield higher profit margins for farmers, even if the market is still somewhat unpredictable.

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A tray of cannabis plants wait to be planted in a northeast Ohio farm.

It leaves hemp cultivator Paul Amoroso little choice but to try different techniques and hemp strains to find what works best.

“We have some test ones, some of them are from clones, some are from seeds,” said Amoroso as he walked through his 3/4-acre hemp field.

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Amoroso stands in front of his field of cannabis plants he's growing for tinctures and to learn more about what will grow well in Ohio.

He and his business partner, Karen DeLuca run Sano Ti Amo, a hemp company that has been making a pain relief cream with hemp from other states for a while.

The Ohio-grown hemp spouting out of their field will be used to make tinctures. It’s part of a research and development effort that will create a series of best practices for Ohio-hemp growing before the group partners with other farmers to share knowledge so they can grow hemp in larger quantities.

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DeLuca speaks with News 5 near a table with cannabis plants waiting to be planted.

“We prefer to grow everything we can in Ohio,” said Amoroso. “It’s just a matter of which strain grows best, in Northeast Ohio, Southern Ohio.”

“We’re still discovering all that the plant can offer,” said DeLuca.

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Flags label different strains of hemp that Sano Ti Amo is testing in the Ohio soil.

They’re also still discovering how to grow it well.

If the plants in their field have more then .3% THC, the compound from marijuana that gets users high, the plants have to be destroyed. In other states, those potentially-small miscalculations have cost farmers dearly.

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Both hemp and marijuana come from the cannabis plant. One large difference between the two is how much THC, the compound that gets users high, is present.

“There’s not a lot of experience out there because people haven’t been doing it for a long time,” said Amoroso.

Sano Ti Amo brought in a retired DEA Agent as a Compliance Officer making sure they properly destroy any plants that have too much THC.

They also have a doctor on their team reviewing ingredient lists for their products making sure to warn customers if hemp products might interfere with more traditional medicines.

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Hemp cultivators are allowed to grow their crops outside as long as their location is documented through Ohio's hemp program.

Those steps aren’t required by the state or federal governments right now but DeLuca says she’s sure it’s coming eventually.

“They’re putting programs in place to that at the end of the day, every aspect of growing hemp from where you got your seed, to how you’re growing it, to how it’s process will be monitored,” said DeLuca. “It’ll also be recorded so any consumer will be able to look at that product and understand it from start to finish.”

That’s important because Amoroso says hemp tends to pull up materials from the ground it grows in making it harder to safely grow for consumption on fields that have high levels of pesticide or metals.

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Amoroso says his products use a full-spectrum of compounds in the hemp plant making them more effective at pain treatment and healing.

Until there is uniform set of rules, Amoroso and DeLuca say they’ll keep experimenting.

“We’re literally just scratching the surface of what the cannabis plant, the hemp plant, can do medically,” said Amoroso.

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