VIENNA, W.Va. — American Independence Day aside, July 4 marked the first day West Virginians could apply to the agriculture commissioner for a license to grow industrial hemp for commercial purposes, although several industry pioneers already are well into their second growing season and thinking big.
Morgan Leach serves as the president of the West Virginia Hemp Industries Association and executive director of the West Virginia Farmers Cooperative, some of whose members already hold 14 licenses to produce hemp through the commissioner of agriculture and grow 30 acres of the crop over 11 counties. Although they obtained their licenses as members of a research institution, independent growers can now get into the industry under the amended law.
Along with other members of the cooperative, Leach has been growing the cannabis plant — specifically hemp — to research some of the best production practices, to raise awareness of its potential and to educate the public on the critical differences between hemp and marijuana.
“Industrial hemp is defined as varieties of cannabis that are below