TISHOMINGO, Okla. (KXII) - Eight Oklahoma colleges are partnering with farmers in a new program to study the growth of hemp.
One of the schools is Murray State College in Tishomingo.
With the passing of the Oklahoma Agricultural Industrial Hemp Pilot Program by the state legislature in 2018, colleges with a plant science program, like Murray State College, are able to grow industrial hemp for research.
The goal of the program is to encourage farmers to become involved in growing hemp, a fibrous crop used for products like paper and oils.
Under the rules and laws of the program, people wishing to grow industrial hemp must contract through a college for research.
Brian Cothran is the program chair for the MSC Agriculture Department and will oversee the development of the industrial hemp program.
"Since it is a relatively new crop that's been reintroduced, there's a lot of questions that remain about the crop," Cothran said.
The farmers would be contracted through the school to grow the hemp, which is different from marijuana because of its low THC levels.
THC is the chemical that produces the euphoric effect or “high” of other cannabis plants, according to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry.
By law, industrial hemp must have less than 0.3% THC.
This will be monitored by the state during the program.
The school will also grow a few hemp plants on campus to study things like varieties of hemp, how the plants grow and what products can be produced.
"These students...get to see firsthand the people that are growing their crops and the things that they're doing well, that work well and also the problems that may exist with the crop," Cothran said.
Seeing the growth process firsthand is something Alisa Northcutt, sophomore agriculture communications major, said would be helpful for the future.
“I think the opportunity that we have to learn more about it and research these things is great and it’s here in Tishomingo Oklahoma," Northcutt said. "I think...the more that I know about it, the more I can advocate for it. We can really use that in the agriculture industry."
Cothran said the school has received lots of interest from more than 60 potential growers, with some already negotiating contracts with the college.
Cothran said the program could start seeing its first plants within the next month and get the growing facility on campus established by April or May.
Kenny Naylor with the Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry will come to talk about the hemp pilot program at MSC next month in an information meeting.
The informational meeting will be at the Murray State College campus in the Administration Building on Monday March 11th at 6 pm.