There is a distinct possibility that residents in the northern part of the Bluegrass State have smelled something that resembles marijuana wafting through the air over the past few weeks. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture says it recently burned a significant amount of commercial hemp because it contained too much of the psychoactive compound THC.
Last Thursday, around 100 pounds of hemp was destroyed at a facility in Louisville because testing showed its THC levels were higher than what the federal government will allow without sending in a legion of DEA agents to tear down the whole scene.
Hemp is often considered marijuana’s more conservative cousin. While it does contain small amounts of THC, there is simply not enough of the compound present—no matter how much a person might smoke—to produce the stoned effects commonly associated with the use of marijuana.
The hemp plant is sort of the “near beer” of the cannabis world—it looks like weed, smells like weed, but if you happened to get your hands on a fat sack of it on the street, you’d be looking to ring the bell of the bastard who sold it to you after taking a single hit off a joint.
But just how strong was the crop that Kentucky officials turned into ashy waste? Not very.
Grower Lyndsey Todd told the Associated Press that while a portion of the crop, which was grown on her farm in central Kentucky, did have THC levels above the 0.3 percent threshold mandated by the government, “you could smoke all 100 pounds and you would end up probably with a headache and nothing else…it’s non-psychoactive,” she added.
When Kentucky first launched its hemp program, the state only allowed cultivation on about 33 acres. Since then, there has been a serious increase in production. Last year, the state manufactured close to 4,500 acres of the plant, while approving enough applications this year for 13,000 acres.
Fortunately, the destruction of hemp is not something that Kentucky officials say happens all of the time.
Brent Burchett, a spokesperson for the state agriculture department, said only about one percent of Kentucky’s hemp crop has to be burned each year to remain in compliance with federal law. He said the part of Todd’s crop that had to be permanently removed from the system contained THC levels between 1.2 percent and 0.4 percent.
“We’ve got a program that’s under a lot of scrutiny at the federal level,” Burchett said. “We have to be good stewards with law enforcement.”
However, hemp proponents argue that the state should never be forced to destroy a perfectly good hemp crop over a THC discrepancy because those plants could still be useful for medicine.
“It’s devastating,” Todd said. “This could have gone to help so many people.”
Todd told the AP that although she has been approved to grow more hemp than last year, she would not likely increase production because she refuses to watch more of her labors be destroyed.