Gov. Mike DeWine has signed a bill that allows the cultivation of industrial hemp in Ohio and legalizes the manufacturing and sale of CBD products.
Ohio's Department of Agriculture must create rules for a hemp program before farmers can begin planting. The department says it needs $12 million to start a testing facility and to bring lab technicians on board.
DeWine said Tuesday that it's now up to farmers to enter the new industry.
"This is a decision that farmers have to make based on what their particular needs are and what's in their best interest, so this crop is just an additional crop that they can now legally grow. They're gonna have to see if there's a market for that."
Hemp contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol found in marijuana, another plant in the cannabis family. CBD products, which are touted for their therapeutic effects, can contain just .3% THC under the new law.
Under Ohio's medical marijuana law, which went into effect in the fall, hemp and CBD were considered the same as marijuana and therefore banned from sale outside of state-approved dispensaries.
Ohio legislators quickly moved to approve the products after the federal government legalized hemp cultivation last year.
Ohio's leading farm group applauded the bill's signing. The Ohio Farm Bureau says industrial hemp will give farmers another crop option and potential revenue stream that could offset "years of declining commodity prices."
Gary Pierzynski, the associate dean for research and graduate programs at Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, agrees that farmers are set to benefit.
"We always like the producers, the farmers to have choices in terms of what crops they have at their disposal to grow," Pierzynski says. "So if the prices are low in one area, perhaps they could go to something like this to keep their income at an acceptable level."
Ohio State is also buying 2,000 hemp plants for research, but Pierzynski says it's too late in the season to grow the plants to normal maturity.
"We're still going to be planting, as soon as next week," he says. "Just to get our researchers familiar with the crop, how to handle it, how to plant it, how to take care of it, so to speak."
The state hopes farmers can be licensed and growing the crop by next spring.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.