However, while the state Cannabis Control Commission has finished writing the regulations for the recreational pot business following extensive public input, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), which is charged with implementing a commercial hemp industry, has yet to unveil a single proposed rule.
In January, farmers and other stakeholders were invited to a meeting to review proposed hemp rules, but it was cancelled due to snow. At the rescheduled meeting in February, the green thumbs were told that higher-ups in the Baker administration were reviewing the policies and that they couldn’t be made public yet.
Since then, farmers have struggled to get any information. I received probably a dozen emails over the past two months from would-be hemp-growers who said they had called or otherwise contacted the Agricultural department, only to be sent in circles or told that no one knew where the regulations were or who was reviewing them.
In the meantime, the ideal window for planting hemp outdoors has come and gone.
When I finally got around to checking on it this week (sorry, farm friends), a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, which oversees MDAR, would initially only say the rules were coming soon, and that hemp-growing licenses would follow.
When I asked what “soon” meant, and whether anyone would be actually allowed to grow hemp this year, officials sent back a slightly reworded version of the same statement. I asked again. This time, the statement had line breaks between each sentence. Progress!
As a last resort, I pinged a contact in Baker’s office. That seems to have dislodged something. Soon, a new answer came back: the hemp policy will be released in April, and will function similar to “emergency” regulations, which don’t require formal public hearings and promulgation.
Farmers will be allowed to apply for licenses immediately after the rules are released and, if they win one, plant hemp this year — although at this point, it will be an abbreviated season. Then, MDAR will develop formal regulations in time for next year’s growing season.
I mean, was that so hard?
Linda Noel, a longtime marijuana activist, patient soul, and would-be hemp farmer from Franklin, Mass., was thrilled by the news. She wants to grow hemp so she can make CBD products, like the kind she currently buys from nearby states, to treat her immune disorder.
“This is very encouraging,” Noel said. “I want to replace what I take now with an organic, Massachusetts-grown product.”
Still, Noel can’t understand why it took me — a city boy who once literally watered a cactus to death — to get a straight answer on hemp farming.
“I know one farmer who’s been calling literally every day, and they couldn’t tell him anything,” Noel said. “At least we have some preliminary dates now.”
By the way, odd tidbit according to Noel: While it’s perfectly legal to grow super-potent, high-THC, get-you-stoned-as-all-heck weed at home, it’s actually a crime to plant hemp — which again, doesn’t get you high — without a state license.
Mount up, boys. No one’s making rope on our watch. Ka-chk.
Ready to grow some hemp? Wearing a hemp hoodie right now? Let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org.