After three years of growing hemp, Linda Noel is confident that 2021 will be a success.

The initial year was rife with problems, including two contracts falling apart, the entire crop becoming hot and regulatory hurdles with cannabidiol (CBD). She learned along the way, however, and the hemp she grew for CBD has become her main crop at Terrapin Farm in Franklin, Massachusetts, where she also grows tomatoes.

But Noel (R) wouldn't have grown for a fourth year without the MA Cannabis Industry Survival and Prosperity Development Amendment included in the state's fiscal 2021 budget. The amendment allows licensed cannabis producers and processors to sell their products to medical and adult-use cannabis dispensaries in the state. Since hemp-derived CBD is only sold as a legal use within the state, it would provide a lifeline for Massachusetts' struggling cannabis industry.

The amendment was passed in December and is expected to take effect March 11. But so far, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (Commission) has not managed updates, guidelines or even a timeline on when the industry can expect to open up the market. .

Noel said, "I hope there will be a sales market in the state by the time we harvest."

Right now, a sense of urgency pervades the state's cannabis industry. With the cultivation season approaching, producers like Noel can only decide whether to cultivate based on a desire to enforce regulations in a timely manner. Meanwhile, processors say they're attracting a rush of calls from interested dispensaries, only to get bogged down while waiting for guidance.

"There will be no cannabis industry in Massachusetts without timely implementation," said John Nathan, president of Bay State Hemp Company, the state's licensed cannabis extractor and processor. "We're in a legal [marijuana] state and about to get rid of marijuana, which is the most beneficial form of the cannabis plant."

A struggling industry

Massachusetts legalized marijuana in 2016, the same year it legalized adult cannabis, but the state's marijuana production did not begin until 2018, telegram.com said. That year, the state reportedly issued 13 marijuana cultivation licenses.

That number more than tripled in 2019, when nearly 70 people were granted cultivation licenses, telegram.com reports.

But trouble came that year when, in late June of that year, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) issued policy guidelines that stated that all hemp-derived CBD products, except for topical use, were banned from being sold in the state.

"Before the harvest, they changed the rules," Noel said. "We're all growing the CBD market ...... They're digging the whole market out from under us."

According to MDAR, the industry's struggle continued through 2020, when 40 percent of the state's crops measured moisture levels above the federally mandated 0.3 percent THC limit and had to be destroyed.

Noel attributed the year's extensive hot crop to the state's drought. Her 2-acre crop was included in that statistic, although she thought her crop was hot because she waited too long to harvest it.

"The second year went into the freezer, and it's still at ....... The third year went into the fire pit," Noel said.

Lifeline for industry

The budget amendment was created to address the relentless efforts of farmers and help a stagnant industry grow. 2020 saw MDAR approve 69 cultivation permits for cannabis growers, nearly the same as the previous year.

See more: 2020 Cannabis Cultivation Data by State

Marijuana growers spoke to multiple sources for this story, saying that many farmers in the state only plan to grow marijuana again because of the amendment.

Nathan said, "As of right now, [farmers] are throwing seeds in the ground and either having to burn [their crops] or being offered nickel, which is not right." Nathan said he currently purchases marijuana from about 15 farmers in the state.

The amendment would also help the state's hemp processors, who say dispensaries have begun asking about CBD products.

"We've had probably two dispensaries contact us. It's a crazy demand." Said Laura Beohner, president and co-founder of The Healing Rose Company, a cannabis processor and manufacturer of finished skin care products, and co-founder and director of the Massachusetts Cannabis Alliance. "It's going to be all about our business."

King, author of the cannabis amendment and director of wholesale for Northeast Alternatives, said the state's dispensaries are looking to expand their product offerings beyond THC. But sourcing cannabinoids from cannabis growers, in addition to cannabis cultivators, has been difficult because, by far, they remain the most lucrative market for those growers.

Read more: CBD vs THC flowers: why the price difference?

Meanwhile, the cannabis industry has an oversupply of CBD biomass (and is increasingly producing other minor cannabinoids as well), which allows dispensaries to purchase these products at lower prices.

"For me, it's up to the viability of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts and hopefully seeing a robust and vibrant local market that will provide these more therapeutic and less psychoactive (cannabinoids) to the people of the state," King said.

But the delays have also created problems for dispensaries and processors, which won't be able to meet demand until the commission provides guidance.

Beohner said she hopes the amendment will allow her to double sales in 2021, so she is starting to hire new staff in anticipation of demand. But being at a standstill, Beohner had to back off when it came to hiring a new employee. Like farmers in the state, she is now taking a wait-and-see approach.

Beohner points to a clear disconnect between the state's two industries. "We're allowed to sell our products anywhere in the state other than pharmacies," says Beohner, who sells only topical products. "It's frustrating."

A sense of urgency

Notably, one potential pitfall of the amendment is that dispensaries are unlikely to be considered an outlet for hot marijuana. That's because the amendment only targets marijuana products, which, by legal definition, contain less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, King said. However, King believes there is an opportunity for MDAR and the commission to work together to develop a way to test crops that can be tested above the legal THC legal limit but below the 1 percent fault threshold and then sold to cannabis dispensaries.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for the European Commission told cannabis growers that the agency has begun discussions with MDAR on how to "safely" introduce hemp products into the cannabis supply chain.

"Compliance with the Commission's testing protocols, tracking from seed to sale, and packaging and labeling are just some of the many requirements the Commission must consider in order to maintain public health and safety when selling products to patients and consumers." A Commission spokesperson said. "At MDAR's invitation, the Commission hopes to provide feedback to MDAR in the coming months on specific areas of concern to its licensees to clarify these issues and more."

But some in the industry say the need becomes imminent as cannabis growers make a final decision on whether to seed their crops this year.

Nathan said, "This may need to be implemented within the next 30 days or it will cause irreparable damage to our cannabis industry."

Despite the hard work of the past few years, some growers like Noel (Noel) remain optimistic. But time will tell how long she and other farmers in Massachusetts hold on to their faith in the industry.

"As a farmer, we tend to say, 'This year, this year is going to be a bumper crop,'" Noel says. "I really hope it is.

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