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NC governor signs bill that keeps hemp industry lawful

The change had to be made by the end of June, so Cooper signed the law Thursday, saying the measure would help farmer keep working "in this growing market."

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It's a budding business. A law that makes the sale of hemp products legal in North Carolina was about to expire, but North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation on Thursday that keeps the state's burgeoning hemp industry operating lawfully.

The General Assembly had given final approval Wednesday to language that would make hemp products for industrial use and others with personal care uses like CBD permanently exempt from the state's list of illegal drugs.

Such language was required by the end of June so that North Carolina growers could keep participating in a production program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The state had run its own pilot production program for several years until recently.

There are more than 1,500 licensed hemp producers in the state.

“Agriculture is North Carolina’s largest industry and giving North Carolina farmers certainty that they can continue to participate in this growing market is the right thing to do for rural communities and our economy,” Cooper said in a news release announcing he had signed three bills.

Right now, thousands of hemp-based products are sold in North Carolina.

“There is a misconception out there of this product," Blake Wofford, co-owner of The Carolina Hemp Cabinet, said. 

Hemp-related products sold in North Carolina must contain 0.3% or less of THC, the element that gets consumers high. The plant’s production and distribution were legalized several years ago.

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Wofford said if hemp had become illegal, they would have had other products to sell. Regardless, it would hurt their business and their customers. 

"I would say half of our customers at least, are medicinal, and they’ve been using it for a while and now they wouldn’t be able to get it, so it’s a concern for everyone," Wofford said. 

Hemp contains a very low amount of the chemical that gives the high to marijuana users. Marijuana remains illegal.

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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