NORTHERN GEORGIA – In 2020, Georgia farmers received state legislature permission to legally grow hemp here for the first time in at least 50 years. The harvest has been banned because it looks and smells like its illegal sister plant, marijuana.
Georgia farmers are required to have hemp plants tested to ensure the psychoactive chemical THC levels are 0.3% or less.
Henry Ostaszewski, co-founder of Blue 42 Organics, told Channel 2’s Tom Regan the benefits of CBD from hemp plants were more than a novelty. They change life.
“We created a kind of lab environment to really create the strains that work here in Georgia,” Ostaszewski said. He and his breeder Gus Wilson are working to develop boutique hemp strains that will thrive in our state’s climate.
The former college and professional footballer became interested in the benefits of hemp for inflammation and anxiety when his former teammates lost their mobility and even their lives to sports-related injuries like CTE.
“We are not driven by the dollars,” said Ostaszewski. “We are striving to really create a really good cultural community around him here in Northern Georgia.”
Blue 42 is one of 86 companies that are now licensed to grow hemp in Georgia.
Ostaszewski said fighting the taboo on growing a crop that looks and smells like an illegal drug may be as difficult as growing the perfect plant.
“We really need people to take this because it could really help a lot of our farmers here in Georgia,” he said.
State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said it was difficult to grow a new crop, with or without the stigma.
“When you have a new commodity, that market finds its way,” said Black.
But he said the biggest hurdle is for federal leaders to weigh what to classify the crop.
“Is that a meal? Is it an additive? What is it? And we’re still waiting for guidance from the federal government, which would be so helpful, ”Black said.
Farmer Barry Smith said the gray area in the cannabis law affects him too. He retired from his Bartow County kindergarten to try growing hemp.
Smith said the crop grows a lot like a tomato, but the regulations and stigma couldn’t be more different.
“When you have your own family members and your friends and the people you go to church with, who you do business with … look at yourself with that skeptical look, then the educational process needs to take place,” said Smith.
Smith also trains farmers to whom he sells his hemp plants. He hired a doctor and financial advisor to calm the mind and navigate gray areas in the law.
Smith’s team estimates that hemp farmers can make anywhere from $ 5,000 to $ 150,000 on an acre of land, and the industry could create four to 6,000 jobs in just two years.
More important to Smith, however, is that hemp can be the key to maintaining a way of life.
“We really need the people of Georgia to realize this is a harvest, and some of these farmers are desperate to save their farm,” said Smith.
Farmers and Commissioner Black hope there is a life for hemp beyond CBD and envision how Georgia could become a hub for the manufacture of hemp textiles and electric car parts.
Ostaszewski said the versatility for this once forbidden crop is sky high.
“This used to be a viable industrial product in Georgia, in the nation, and we can come back to it,” Ostaszewski said.