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North Dakota hemp field

Three Hemposium attendees look over a field of cannabidiol hemp Thursday just north of Leonard, N.D. The inaugural symposium included presentations by regulators and researchers as well as insurance, legal and testing experts.

LEONARD, N.D. | Tom Campbell is having fun joining in what he calls the “wild, wild West” that’s the cannabidiol hemp industry in the region.

The owner and partner of Campbell Farms in Grafton has six acres of cannabidiol (CBD) hemp that he’s grown from seed near Big Lake, Minn.

“We have lots of challenges. We’re learning a lot this year,” Campbell said during a break in the inaugural Hemposium, held Thursday at the Leonard Country Club.

More than 120 people filled the club’s banquet room for the daylong event, sponsored by Plantology, a Fargo company looking to sell hemp plants and offer hemp-related services.

The attendees, mostly farmers from North Dakota and Minnesota, peppered regulators and researchers as well as insurance, legal and testing experts for information on how to best grow and get to market CBD oil made from hemp. The event also included a tour of 16 acres of cloned hemp plants being raised by Plantology.

Campbell’s concern wasn’t that there was a market for what he can grow. It’s that every other farmer would want into that market and drive down the price of CBD oil.

“There’s so many people interested in it, it’s scary,” Campbell said.

Mike Gust, an attorney and partner at Anderson, Bottrell, Sanden and Thompson Law Firm, says CBD hemp could become a significant crop for North Dakota.

“This is a revolution going on in ag right now” with the legalization of hemp and CBD hemp, he said. “It’s something I truly believe will take this state by storm.”

For a long time hemp has been “the stepbrother” of marijuana, suffering by association with its high-inducing cousin, Gust said.

But that has changed with the legalization of hemp and the growing popularity of CBD. “Frankly, it could be the future of ag in North Dakota,” Gust said.

Cannabidiol is a naturally occurring chemical derived from the hemp plant, which many people believe can help ease pain, insomnia and anxiety. CBD doesn’t provide a high and can now be found in a wide variety of products, including edibles, oils, tinctures, pills, capsules, topical creams and vaping liquids.

John Mortenson, the hemp program coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, urged people interested in growing hemp to get their licenses and to pay close attention to levels of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives users their high.

Marijuana may have THC levels of 20% to 30%, but hemp can’t have a THC level above 0.3% in North Dakota. “If (a test for) a field comes back ‘hot’, it will have to be destroyed,” Mortenson said.

Mortenson also urged growers to be open with law enforcement regarding where they grow and the routes they use for getting their product to market. “If you are going to grow in a somewhat public place, be open with your sheriff, be open with your chief of police,” Mortenson said.

Brady Schoeler of Schoeler Farms has planted two acres of CBD hemp.

Schoeler Farms, northeast of Jamestown, grows 2,000 acres of corn, wheat and dry edible beans, but Schoeler said he liked the idea of “a different market opportunity” that CBD hemp presents.

“A lot of this is new,” Schoeler said of the Hemposium presentations. “I’m trying to get as many business cards as I can to ask other questions.”

Schoeler said he’s spent about $5 per cloned hemp plant, putting about 1,500 plants per acre into the ground. What he’s learned about hemp so far is “it’s very, very labor intensive,” citing regular weeding.

“You can’t just seed it and come back later,” Schoeler said with a laugh.

Troy Goltz, one of the four partners in Plantology, said the outlook for the hemp industry is rosy. The market was $108.1 million in 2014, but it is expected to top $1.8 billion by 2022.

“This thing has been going crazy the last couple years,” Goltz said.

Goltz gave Hemposium attendees hemp-growing tips that Plantology has used with its four varieties of cloned hemp plants now in the field.

He said that if the remainder of the growing season goes well and there are no serious hiccups, Plantology will have cloned hemp plants available for sale in 2020.

“We’re probably 70% home,” Goltz said.

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