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Industrial hemp has potential for use in food sources, textiles, building materials, and pharmaceuticals. The ancient crop was once widely utilized around the world—with some historians dating its use by humans back to 8000 B.C.—but today research is limited by federal regulations that define the crop as a Schedule I Controlled Substance along with marijuana. While the two have the same origins, hemp—a cannabis sativa plant species—has been breed to have extremely low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis.
In 2014, President Obama signed the Farm Bill, which included a section allowing for universities and state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp for research conducted under an agricultural pilot program. Within a few years, New York became a leader in hemp research, launching its industrial hemp agricultural research pilot program and introducing new legislation to establish industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity under the State’s Agricultural and Markets Law.
New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo allocated up to $10 million in grant funding to advance industrial hemp research and economic development opportunities for industrial hemp businesses, including $5 million in research grants available to support the research and production of industrial hemp in New York and nearly $1 million in partnerships with Cornell University and SUNY Morrisville.