Lawmakers consider if hemp could be the key to diversifying Nevada’s economy

Lawmakers consider if hemp could be the key to diversifying Nevada’s economy

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Nevada’s state senate is reportedly searching for creative ways to diversify their state’s economy. As part of this search, state lawmakers are considering requesting an interim study on the state’s hemp industry.

Hemp has high economic potential

The legislation that would spark this study points out that “[h]emp has the potential to clean up our contaminated urban soils and meet the demands for biofuels and textiles and has other uses such as hempcrete and animal feed.”

According to the Nevada Independent., Sen. Roberta Lange addressed her colleagues during an April 22 presentation on the proposed study. She reportedly explained that the study could help Nevada develop its hemp market, which could provide jobs and boost the state’s economy.

The purpose of the study is to

  • Investigate the available funding sources for research
  • Review current industry trends
  • Research innovative methods to encourage industry growth
  • Find programs that may promote economic development in partnership with hemp businesses

Can hemp survive in the Sagebrush State?

Nevada’s semi-arid climate can be a challenge for all kinds of farmers. However, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that hemp requires less water to grow than some of the state’s major crops, like alfalfa. This suggests that hemp could prosper in Nevada.

“[Hemp] is something that is made for Nevada, something that we can use to diversify our economy to put more people back to work,” Lange reportedly said. “We have lots of land; we have lots of vacant buildings, buildings that we can put indoor grow houses.”

Hemp’s versatility could also factor into the crop’s value. CBD is one of several potential products that can come from the hemp plant. Hemp seeds can be eaten as food or pressed into oil. The fibers in hemp stalks can be turned into fabric, rope, insulation, bioplastic, biofuel and more.

Former legislator and Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom reportedly testified in support of the proposed study. He reportedly uses CBD oil, himself, and believes that hemp could benefit Clark County’s agricultural community.

“We’re intending to . . . bring hemp into Clark County to let people study it, grow it in some of the neighborhood gardens that the university participates in and it’s just a win-win," Segerblom reportedly said.

“It’s an incredibly valuable product,” he added.

The importance of staying competitive in a nationwide market

Although there are many potential uses for hemp, Nevada farmers’ interest in growing this crop has waxed and waned over the years.

In 2016, 13 growers were registered under the state’s pilot program. That number reportedly grew to 116 registered growers in 2018. After the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, the state had 216 growers, but that number reportedly dropped back down to 116 in 2020.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal blames the loss of enthusiasm among growers on a “saturation of hemp products” in the market. A January article reports that prices for hemp biomass dropped nearly 80% from April 2019 to April 2020 as growers across the country began competing in the same new market.

This doesn’t mean that Nevada farmers who left the hemp industry will never grow hemp again. It is possible that with the right industry support, hemp could become one of Nevada’s most important crops. Currently, it is unclear just what those supports might be. However, this is exactly what Nevada’s proposed hemp industry study could find out, if the corresponding legislation earns the approval of enough lawmakers.