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VOL. 39 | NO. 15 | Friday, April 10, 2015

State Agriculture Department gets 53 hemp applications

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee's Department of Agriculture says it has received 53 applications seeking approval to grow industrial hemp.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1CFrlZc) reports the applicants will serve as test cases for the state law if the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration gives its approval to the project.

Officials say industrial hemp is the same plant species of marijuana, but it has a significantly lower content of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. It can be used in a variety of products, including fabric, textiles, fibers and foods.

The DEA has asked state officials for more details on planned uses for the crop.

Those who applied to grow hemp asked for plots ranging from one-tenth of an acre in Nashville to more than 900 acres in Memphis. Most sought approval to grow the crop on 5 acres of land or less.

Charlie Mason Sr. and his son, Charles Mason Jr., said if they are successful at growing the crop, it could mean big changes.

"We've got cattle right now that we're relocating and plan to process at least 60 acres to kind of get our feet wet, you might say, in this new type of an industry. ... It just gives us a good base instead of having tobacco products for farming, because the cattle and the hay is getting so expensive where we've been having such dry seasons. ... We're just looking for an option to try to maintain the farming industry in a different capacity," said Mason Sr.

Jim D'Alessandro of Clinton, who requested a smaller plot, says he hopes to show the usefulness of the crop to consumers.

"There are enough benefits from this plant that an individual can use it and benefit greatly from it. Hemp oil is full of omega-3 fatty acids, it can also be used for fuel, there's just a lot of applications for the plant. ... I don't see that as something that should just be constrained to the farmer," said D'Alessandro.

Republican State Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains, who sponsored the original bill to grow hemp, says federal approval needs to come soon for the crop to be planted this year. He estimated the cutoff for optimum planting to be at the end of May.

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