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New Hemp and Pot Laws Draw Interested Growers At First Public Hearing

Whittney Evans
Members of the public streamed in and out of a meeting with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food on Thursday to talk about Utah's new marijuana and hemp laws. The meeting lasted most of the morning and afternoon.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food took comments from the public on Thursday over how to implement the state’s new medical marijuana and hemp laws. Many of the people who came were interested in going into business with the state. One Utah man said he wants to move his Colorado hemp oil company across state lines.

And a former Utah law enforcement officer, who didn’t want to give his name, said he wants to grow hemp and marijuana on his family farm.

“I think it’d help sustain the economy, that’s for sure. You know, it’d help out my family and the other farmers in the area that are hurting,” he said.

Credit Whittney Evans/KUER
The panel from the Utah Department of Agriculture will use public comment to inform new rules and regulations for growing marijuana and hemp.

It’s unclear, at this point, whether the state will decide to work with local farmers or contract with a third party. But Scott Ericson with the Department of Agriculture and Food said he expects the new laws will create hundreds of state government jobs for processing, retail, growing and manufacturing.

“We knew there would be a lot of interest,” Ericson said. ”But we underestimated how much interest there is and passion that people have for it. Everybody knows someone in the state that either could benefit or has benefited from a CBD or a medical marijuana product.”

Ericson said it might be another five months before the rules are drafted.

This year, the Utah Legislature legalized hemp or CBD oil, which is known to reduce pain and inflammation without getting the person high. Lawmakers also legalized medical marijuana for some terminally ill patients.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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