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Tennessee farmers, researchers apply for first industrial hemp permits

Fifty-three individuals and businesses across the state, including seven from East Tennessee, will serve as test cases for Tennessee’s industrial hemp law.

That’s how many applications, plus one that was later withdrawn, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture received for the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program by the April 1 deadline.

How those applications will be evaluated — or whether anyone will actually be able to grow a crop this year — is still uncertain.

Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana.

Under the pilot program, participants would import seed only with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration approval, which must be certified as having THC levels — the psychoactive ingredient found in high levels in marijuana — of not more than 0.3 percent by weight.

“All we want to do is just lift that ban on raising and let us compete with Canadian farmers, Chinese farmers. And for some reason the DEA in Washington will not give us a number so we can buy our seed from Canada,” said State Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, who sponsored the original bill to grow hemp here.

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