The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved industrial hemp licensing plans for Louisiana, Ohio and New Jersey, the department announced Friday. The states are the first to get such approval, though 34 other states have hemp research or pilot projects under a 2014 law.

“This is exciting,” said Eric Steenstra, spokesman for the nonprofit hemp advocacy group Vote Hemp.

He added, “I was surprised to see that Louisiana, New Jersey and Ohio were approved because they didn’t grow hemp last year.”

The federal government last year legalized hemp, which is related to and looks like marijuana but contains only traces of THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets people high.

Hemp fiber and seeds are used to produce textiles, rope, paper, cosmetics, fuel and CBD, which is often sold as a dietary supplement or included in creams and other personal care products.

Louisiana will be able to accept license applications once the USDA approves its rules and regulations, which is expected to happen in February, said Laura Lindsay, a spokeswoman for Strain.

“I am pleased that we remain on track to issue licenses for the 2020 planting season,” Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said in a news release.

USDA announced the approvals Friday, saying another 15 state plans are being reviewed and eight more are being drafted. It said three Indian tribes — the Flandreau Santee Sioux, La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians and Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians — have approved plans, and another 15 tribes’ plans are being drafted or reviewed.

Farmers in 21 states grew the plant in 2018, and those in another 13 states began doing so in 2019, according to Vote Hemp. They did so under provisions of the 2014 farm bill authorizing research and pilot programs, Steenstra said.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says at least 47 states have passed laws for industrial hemp cultivation and production.

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