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Hemp to Take Root on Oneida Reservation in Wisconsin

This summer, hemp seeds will be planted across some 32 acres on the Oneida Reservation in Wisconsin, a state that was once the second-largest producer of industrial hemp in the U.S. The Tribe is participating in a state pilot program to explore the various uses of hemp — from cannabidiol (CBD) to animal feed to concrete. The pilot — formed after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, including the federal removal of hemp from the Controlled Substances Act — allows Wisconsin farmers to begin hemp production for the first time since 1958.

It will be a light growing season in 2019 for the Oneida Nation, which is taking a slow and deliberate approach to hemp production. But the process may plant the seeds for future opportunity to grow and sell hemp products at a commercial scale. Meanwhile, the Tribe is developing its own regulations regarding hemp.

At least one of the 32 acres of hemp will be allocated for the production of cannabidiol (CBD), which requires the Tribe to send those plants to one of the three processing facilities in Wisconsin. CBD doesn’t contain the psychoactive component of cannabis, THC, and it’s been proven effective in reducing pain and treating conditions like epilepsy and anxiety. CBD is also a hot commodity and potentially lucrative move for the Tribe.

“There seems to be a lot of hope that CBD is going to be a big revenue generator,” said the Tribe’s hemp project manager Mike Troge to the Green Bay Press Gazette.

The remaining acres serve for testing and seed production for upcoming growing seasons. The Tribe’s measured approach will allow it to make informed decisions about committing to the labor-intensive process of growing hemp for CBD, or moving forward with producing hemp fiber, despite the limited nationwide resources and production facilities to perform that strenuous work. Hemp can be used to make rope, twine, fabric, animal feed, paper and concrete, among other industrial products. The Tribe has yet to go after a processor’s license.

“It’s kind of crazy how many things you can make with hemp,” Ernie Stevens III, a member of the General Tribal Council, told the Green Bay Press Gazette.

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