Utah board gives initial OK to grow marijuana for research


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is considering a new rule that would allow some farmers to grow limited varieties of cannabis for research purposes.

The rule was given initial approval Tuesday by the state’s Agricultural Advisory Board, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2t7965l ). The rule would allow anyone with a permit to grow industrial hemp, which is a cannabis plant that contains only small quantities of the psychoactive compound associated with marijuana.

Utah Institutions such as Utah State University are already allowed to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes as part of the 2014 federal Farm Bill, but the new rule would expand who is allowed to grow the plant.

People who want to grow the plant would have to submit a research plan to the state to be approved for a permit. Melissa Ure, a policy analyst for the Utah Department of Agriculture, said the scope is very broad for the type of research that could earn a permit.

Those seeking growing permits will also have to submit plans for preventing unauthorized access to their crops and for disposing of the hemp after the research is complete.

The commercial sale of the residual hemp products would still be prohibited under the law, Ure said.

The rule will be subject to public review this summer. If finalized, the state could begin issuing permits next January.

Members of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, representing the state’s growers, held a seminar last summer on growing cannabis. The farmers who attended expressed interest in the crop, which they saw as having the potential to dramatically increase their profits.