BROOME COUNTY, N.Y. — It was the material used for the Declaration of Independence draft. And then hemp’s cultivation and use in the United States discontinued in the mid-20th Century. But now New York State is bringing it back.

“What’s really exciting about this is it gives places like the Southern Tier an opportunity to develop a brand new agricultural crop that has enormous potential for manufacturing and really improving the lives of a lot of people,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo.

Hemp often gets confused with marijuana, but industrial hemp and marijuana are genetically distinct varieties of cannabis. Hemp has virtually no THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

“People are interested in hemp for textiles, paper, biofuels, food products, and of course cannabidiol, which is the non-psychoactive component in medical marijuana,” the assemblywoman said.

Those at the Broome County Cornell Cooperative extension are excited for Cornell University to apply for and obtain a license so they can immediately get out onto the farms.

“We’re those boots on the ground. We’re working with farmers regularly, and we’re really interested in learning about what Cornell is researching, so we can use that knowledge and help farmers apply it so in the long run,” said¬†Kaitlyn Sirna with Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture and Development. “We’re talking about soil samples; we’re that place in the area that farmers can come to and get testing done.”

Morrisville is also interested in being one of the 10 universities to receive a three-year license to grow industrial hemp. These universities will then be able to work with local farmers to study methods for growth, harvesting, storage, transportation and marketing of the crop.

“We have hundreds of thousands of unused acres in the Southern Tier alone,” Lupardo said, “and we’d like to see those acres put back to use for a variety of purposes.”

Lupardo said opening this door will boost the local economy and even change lives.

“It is something that people are using for epilepsy treatment, for example,” she said. “It’s the main component in Charlotte’s Web that parents want to use for their children.”

She expects planting to begin in the spring. Research of industrial hemp by states was permitted as part of the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill.

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By Emily Lorsch

(Source:; January 15, 2016;