Is Hemp West Virginia's Next Cash Crop?

Aug 24, 2016

Hemp, known in the scientific community as cannabis sativa, is a cousin to the more commonly known marijuana, but unlike its medicinally and recreationally used relative, hemp does not contain any THC- a mind-altering ingredient. 

Susan Wheeler, a graduate student at West Virginia University, with her hemp plants on a secret plot in Morgantown.
Credit Carla Whitee Ford / New South Media

So, throughout the nation's history, hemp has been used more practically. It's often turned into fibers used in fabrics or rope or pressed into oils, but the plant itself is still considered a schedule one drug, meaning law enforcement treats it just like they would heroin or Ecstasy.

In 2014, however, Congress left an opening in the federal Farm Bill to allow state Departments of Agriculture and universities to begin doing research on the best ways to grow hemp in their areas. 

West Virginia began its program in 2015 and now, about a dozen farmers in the state are growing the plant.

Managing Editor of the magazine West Virginia Living Zack Harold wrote about the budding industry in the latest edition of Morgantown Magazine and joined Ashton Marra to discuss his reporting.