Pennsylvania regulators are still digging their way out from under all the industrial hemp applications they received by the April 30 deadline, and at last count Lancaster County was dominating.
Shannon Powers, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, said at last count Lancaster County was the "epicenter," with more growing locations approved than any other county — 80 in at least 32 permits.
However, she said, that could change as the department finishes processing the last of upwards of 300 applications received statewide. She also noted that a lot of growing locations had been approved in neighboring Berks County, although she didn't have numbers on that.
Fiber and oil from hemp is used for thousands of products worldwide, including automotive interiors, textiles, paper, foods, beverages and nutritional supplements — with the compound known as cannabidiol or CBD attracting particularly intense interest.
Industrial hemp was banned nationwide in 1937 because of its similarity to marijuana. Federal farm bills loosening the restrictions paved the way for Pennsylvania to allow its growth for research purposes starting in 2017 and then commercially starting this year.
The research program was pretty restrictive, and 2018 was the first time any Lancaster County farmers participated in it. This will be only the second year in more than eight decades that industrial hemp has grown legally in Lancaster County.
Industrial hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant and, by law, hemp must be destroyed if it has 0.3% or more of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.