ALBANY New York's first legal hemp seeds are one step closer to being grown by universities and local farmers after the state made a new round of revisions to the regulations.
The regulations come after research of industrial hemp was permitted as part of the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill, and a pilot program was created in the state after legislation was approved that was sponsored by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, Broome County, and Sen. Tom O'Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County.
The latest revisions were posted in the state Register last month, and advocates are hopeful that production can begin next spring.
"I'm glad these revisions take into consideration the concerns and suggestions Senator O'Mara and I put forward, along with farmers and businesses across the state," Lupardo said in a statement. "New York will begin conducting important research so that farmers can hit the ground running when full-scale production is permitted."
Preliminary regulations were issued last spring followed by a public-comment period, which resulted in several changes in the proposed guidelines for growing.
Some upstate colleges have expressed interest in the pilot program, including Cornell University and Binghamton University.
The revisions include the ability for the state and participating colleges and universities to contract with local farmers to grow hemp. Also revised were security measures, such the elimination of a requirement to enclose hemp crops with eight-foot fences.
"The initial public comment process allowed farmers, universities, businesses and legislators to suggest changes that we're now pleased to see have been incorporated into the latest set of regulations," O''Mara said in a statement. "We're now one step closer to finally moving New York State into an effective position to begin capturing these economic, job-creating and revenue-generating opportunities."
Gloria Meredith, founding dean of the Binghamton University School of Pharmaceutical Science, said in a statement that, "Binghamton University is supportive of advances in any area of research that aim to create medicines and products that improve the lives of New Yorkers."
Hemp, in stalk and seed form, can be used for a variety of goods including textiles, building materials, paper, food, body products and environmental products such as biofuels.
It possesses health benefits due to its high concentrations of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. In 2012, retail sales from imported hemp products were estimated at $500 million, according to the statement.
The latest regulations are subject to another 30-day public comment period before they are finalized.
The industrial hemp pilot program is separate from a state law last June that legalized medical marijuana. Growing of medical marijuana is set to begin Jan. 1.