The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) last week released guidance as part of a 2020 plan to enable cannabis and hemp cultivation on land, part of the state’s Agricultural Restriction (APR) and Improvement Programs belonging to the viability of farms. The move could open more than 73,000 acres of protected farmland for potential industrial operations.
The APR program, which dates back to 1979, offers farmland owners the difference between the fair market value and the agricultural value of their farms in exchange for permanent action restrictions in order to preserve farmland for future agricultural use, according to the agency’s website. The Farm Viability Improvement Program provides business and technical assistance to established farmers through grants in exchange for signing an agricultural agreement on the property in order to maintain it for agricultural purposes, the state website said.
Hemp and cannabis production will be allowed on the land designated in the programs, although cannabis may not be grown on federally funded land as cannabis is still federally banned. MDAR told the Worchester Business Journal that all recently earned APRs were received through federal funding.
In the guidelines, the agency said the updated rules were triggered by “concerns” from landowners who “wanted to diversify land use and create new sources of income”.
“After reviewing these concerns and assessing the advancing state of law regarding the legalization of medical and adult marijuana in Massachusetts and the cultivation of hemp in the US, it has its guidelines on hemp and marijuana reviews and evaluates whether the department can recognize such activities as horticultural purposes in accordance with the laws and intentions of the APR program. “- Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources,” Hemp and Marijuana Production on APR and Farm Viability Protected Lands, April 28, 2021 “
There are other hurdles for farmers, including an MDAR restriction on hemp-derived CBD products in Massachusetts-licensed cannabis stores. MDAR is currently working with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission to address the issue and potentially open up the profitable market for farmers.
According to Vote Hemp, Massachusetts grew 202 acres of hemp last year, up from just 21 in 2019.
Lukas Barfield contributed to the coverage of this article.
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TG joined Ganjapreneur in 2014 as a news writer and has moderated the Ganjapreneur podcast since 2016. He lives in New York State, where he teaches media studies at a local university.