UPDATE: Industrial hemp future in WV threatened by civil suit

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(White Sulphur Springs) The West Virginia Department of Agriculture says industrial hemp is on the rise, but excitement for the new crop is tempered by a civil suit making its way through the courts.

A spokesperson for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture says there’s been a 300 percent increase in hemp farming applications for the 2019 growing season. Lynell Braught, PHD is one of those industrial hemp farmers. He said, “I, actually, this last year grew three hundred plants here in my backyard.”

A rise in the popularity of CBD oil, which is made from hemp and used as a natural remedy, is fueling the craze. Dr. Lynell explained saying, “Big expansion that’s happening with this because you cannot get high on it but it’s taking care of a lot of the pain. We have a lot of people that were on opioids that are looking to this to control the pain.” Even with the three hundred plants grown last year Dr. Lynell says he could still produce more hemp to meet the demand.

But in this state excitement for the crop is marred by uncertainty due to a civil suit filed by the US Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia. The civil suit claims a violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act, asserting a farmer in Mason County carried hemp seeds across state lines.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture regulates industrial hemp in the state. A spokesperson said the agency is following the intent of the state legislature and doesn’t see any violation of state law. For now investment in the industry is stalled with uncertainty awaiting a judge’s ruling.

In a phone call on Thursday US Attorney General for the Southern District of West Virginia, Mike Stuart, accused the West Virginia Department of Agriculture of “failing in compliance and oversight” of hemp regulations. When asked why his office filed a civil suit and not criminal charges Stuart said there was “enough uncertainty because of the public’s view of hemp” but added that he reserves the right to file criminal charges.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown

Multimedia Journalist

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