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Farmers with a license can grow hemp but cannot sell hemp products to the public

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, the Alabama Political Reporter talked with Gail Ellis with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries about industrial hemp and complaints from hemp farmers that their state licenses are too restrictive.

Ellis told APR that it is illegal in Alabama for a farmer to sell hemp material to the general public or to anyone without a hemp license.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked about the legality of smokable hemp products being widely marketed in the state.

Ellis said that all of those products are presently illegal as are the hemp gummy bears and other chewable hemp products.

The 2018 Farm Bill make industrial hemp legal throughout the country. After the product was legalized by the federal government farmers applied for and received licenses from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to grow hemp in Alabama in 2018. These are the first farms to grow hemp in Alabama legally in approximately 80 years. While hemp historically has been used to make paper, rope, building materials, wood substitutes, etc.; most of the hemp being grown in Alabama today are being grown for their flowers which produce cannabidiol when pressed or run through a centrifuge.

Ellis shared a directive from the Department.

“A licensed grower can legally sell unprocessed hemp to a licensed processor/handler. However, even licensed growers or licensed processor/handlers are prohibited from selling unprocessed hemp (i.e. buds, cigarettes, smokable hemp, hemp tea bags, etc.)”

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Marketing the seeds, plants, or flowers to anyone other than a licensed grower or processor is also presently illegal, according to Ellis

“Dried hemp in the form of floral and bud material is considered unprocessed. As such, it is illegal to sell to the unlicensed public (i.e. individuals, gas stations, online, CBD stores, etc.). Industrial hemp material can only be handled/processed by those with an Industrial Hemp processor/handler license.”

“Licensed Growers are allowed to sell harvested hemp material to other licensed growers and/or processor / handlers in Alabama OR to licensed growers and/or processor / handlers in other states.”

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“For CBD store owners who also happen to have a current Hemp Processor/ Handler license, the y would be legal to possess the dried floral/bud material; however, they would still be prohibited from selling unprocessed hemp to the public. Customers for smokable (unprocessed) hemp would not be licensed to handle hemp, so individuals purchasing such products would be in jeopardy of being arrested.”

The Alabama regulation was written by Gunter Guy Jr.

Lisa Varner is a Moody artist, jewelry maker, and hemp/cannabis activist.

Varner is also a leader of Alabama Hemp Love networking, a group of like minded business people in Moody seeking to raise awareness on the hemp issue.

Varner says that she uses cannabidiol oil (CBD) which is derived from industrial hemp.

“I use it for relaxation and to ease migraine headaches,” Varner said. She has been under a doctor’s care for this in the past but the side effects of the migraine medicines available were far worse than the actual ailment. Lisa says she stopped using man made medicines opting instead for natural alternatives; hemp being the best she has found thus far. “With hemp I miss 2-3 days per year due to my migraines without it 5-7 are often lost due to my condition..”

“I am a naturalist. I rarely eat cooked food,” Varner explained. “I am not for corporations altering my medicines and my foods.”

Warner also sells jewelry that she makes from hemp plants. She expressed concerns that the way that the Alabama Department of Agriculture is interpreting the hemp laws will put her jewelry business in jeopardy.

“Anything that you can make from a tree, you can make with hemp,” Varner said. “And anything you can make from petrochemicals, you can make from hemp.”

Patrick Leberte is a licensed hemp grower in Moody, who also owns Hemp 205, a CBD store.

Leberte said that he put most of his money into his farm and startup business thinking he could sell the flowers

“There is no law against it,” Leberte told APR. When Alabama’s hemp crop was ready to harvest the Department changed the rules.

A source close to the hemp industry told APR that the flowers are 30 percent of the hemp business and that the rule on flowers has hurt the profitability of Alabama hemp growers, who already did not have a good crop because of the August and September drought.

“The raw hemp is the best way you can use CBD,” the source speaking on condition of anonymity told APR. “Processing takes out some of the CBG and turpentine.”

“The flowers are more soothing than the oil,” Varner told APR. While CBD oil is working for her, other people need the flowers, and some persons need marijuana.

Varner said that she favors marijuana legalization as well as the full legalization of hemp in all its forms.

While hemp and marijuana look very similar; hemp has a much lower THC content than marijuana. THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical component in marijuana that produces the “high” and the hallucinogenic effects.

St. Clair County District Attorney Lyle Harmon (R) said that the four hemp farms in St. Clair County were all inspected and were found to have less than .3 percent THC. Anything above that would be illegal and have to be destroyed.

Leberte said that poor weather and late planting due to a delay in getting his seed tested resulted in his first hemp crop being stunted so it had to be destroyed.

An Auburn University ag extension agronomist told APR the hemp plant does not flower until decreasing daylight, September and October, thus the plants have to be kept alive through the long summer. She said that it would be foolish to attempt to grow hemp for CBD without overhead irrigation.

Hemp is such a new crop for Alabama that researchers are not even sure what are the best soil pH and fertilization recommendations are for the plant here. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is currently accepting applications for hemp growers for the 2020 growing season.

APR asked Leberte if hemp should be like corn: a farmer can plant it if he wants to and he can harvest and sell it to anyone, even the general public, that will buy the product.

Leberte said no; that hemp should be regulated similarly to tobacco to keep it out of the hands of kids.

Ellis said smokable and eatable hemp products and even CBD have not been approved yet. USDA still has to give approvals and so does FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

The hemp industry source told APR that some farmers are talking to an attorney about suing the state to allow the direct sell of hemp to consumers, especially the flowers themselves.

Ellis said that the rule has not changed from day one and if growers had read their application they would have seen that selling the flowers to the public was forbidden.

Ellis warned that many stores across the state are selling products that are not legal. There is still an issue of who has jurisdiction; but once that is resolved some people who are selling unprocessed hemp products “Could be going to jail.”

APR asked if hemp cigarettes should be taxed like tobacco cigarettes.

Ellis thought said she thought so, “But that is an issue for the Alabama Department of Revenue.”

Chey Lindsey Garrigan is an economic developer, commercial real estate broker, registered lobbyist and political operative with ties to the national hemp and cannabis industries.

“This will only be solved by the Alabama legislature,” Garrigan told APR. “Legislation will have to be introduced and passed in the 2020 legislative session to fix this. CBD and hemp have benefitted the lives of millions of Americans and the Alabama farmer should not be hindered by their own state government when growing a natural product that is widely available in almost every other state.

“When my father passes, I will be moving someplace else if the state does not get off overregulating the hemp plant,” Varner said.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Elections

Opinion | For Coach Tub, no thinking required

Joey Kennedy

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Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville (TUBERVILLE CAMPAIGN)

Has Tommy Tuberville ever had an original thought? It doesn’t sound like it. Coach Tub basically spews Republican talking points and keeps his mouth firmly locked onto Donald Trump. He disrespects Alabama voters so much that he thinks that’s all he needs to do to win a place in the U.S. Senate.

Tuberville recently addressed the St. Clair County Republican Party at its September meeting. As reported by APR, Tuberville is quoted as saying the following, and I’ll offer a short rebuttal. I’m doing this because Tuberville is clearly afraid to death to debate his opponent, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.

So here goes:

Tuberville: America is about capitalism, not socialism. I think we are going to decide which direction we are going to go in the next few years.”

Me: We decided which way we were going to go years ago, when the federal government started subsidies for oil and gas companies, farmers and other big industry and business. That, coach, is your so-called “socialism.”

I’m not necessarily opposed to subsidies to boost business, depending on the cause, but I’m not going to let a dimwitted, know-nothing, mediocre, former football coach pretend we don’t already have “socialism” in this country.  

What Tuberville really means is that he’s against “socialism” like Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security or food assistance or health insurance. He’s a millionaire already, so there’s no need for him have empathy for or support a safety net for people who are less fortunate socially and economically. That’s Tuberville’s “socialism,” and the Republican Party’s “socialism,” and Trump’s “socialism.

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That’s a cruel, mean perspective that would cast aside the great majority of Americans for the rich (Tuberville, Trump) and connected and, where Trump is concerned, the fawning.

Tuberville: “I am not a Common Core guy. I believe in regular math. We need to get back to teaching history.”

Me: I would love to ask Coach Tubby, one-on-one, exactly what he thinks “Common Core” is. I’ll guarantee you he can’t explain more than he already has. “I believe in regular math?” There is no other math. It’s math. Does he think there’s a math where 1+1=3? There isn’t one. There are a variety of ways to teach math, but there’s only math, not a “fake” math or a “Republican” math or a “Democratic” math or, God forbid, a “Socialist” math.

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And when Coach Tommy said, “We need to get back to teaching history,” one wonders if he’s ever been into a classroom. We know more than a few of his former players weren’t in many classrooms, if reports are correct. But they always played the game under his uninspired coaching.

Of course schools teach history.

The history Coach T. is talking about is Donald Trump’s “white” history, the one we’ve been teaching in our schools forever. Not real history; you know, the one where the United States was founded as a slave-holding nation, where Native Americans were massacred and starved by the hundreds of thousands, where white supremacy was codified within our laws, where any color but white was subjugated. That history. The history that is finally fading away, so we can really see where we’ve been as a nation—so we know where, as a nation, we need to go.

Tuberville: Tuberville said he supports following the Constitution and appointing a replacement for Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday.

Me: Well, of course he does. Tuberville doesn’t have an independent thought in his body, and Donnie told him this is what he’s supposed to think. The big question: How much will a Senator Tuberville be able to function as a member of a minority party in the Senate — with no Papa Trump in the White House to tell him what to do?

Both scenarios are real possibilities, if not likelihoods.

There is no question that Doug Jones is far more qualified than Tuberville. Jones can work across the aisle, which will be vitally important if Democrats take control of the Senate. Jones has his own thoughts, which sometimes go against the Democratic Party’s wishes. Jones is independent, smart and represents Alabama well.

Tuberville is a failed football coach who lives in Florida. That’s about it.

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Economy

Alabama Farmer’s Federation starts a relief fund for farmers impacted by Sally

Brandon Moseley

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A satellite image of Hurricane Sally. (VIA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE)

The Alabama Farmers Federation said Monday that it has established a relief fund to help farmers from across the state whose farms were damaged by Hurricane Sally.

“When disaster strikes, I am always impressed by the people of Alabama and their giving spirits,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “As we started receiving photos of damaged crops, barns and equipment, we also started getting questions from people about what they could do to help our farmers, and that’s why we’ve established this fund.”

All the donations to the relief fund are tax-deductible and may be made online or by check payable to Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation at P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191. Please include “hurricane relief fund” in the check memo line.

“Most of our farmers had as good a crop as we’ve ever seen, and it was so close to harvest for cotton, soybeans, peanuts and pecans,” Parnell said. “It’s devastating to lose a crop that had so much promise. Our farmers are great people who are assisting each other with cleaning up the damage, and we’re so grateful to everyone across the state who is helping in some way, like donating to the relief fund.”

Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores as a category two storm Sept. 16 with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Official reports from the National Weather Service show more than 20 inches of rain in Baldwin County.

The combination of heavy rains and high winds damaged crops, structures and equipment from Mobile and Baldwin Counties in the southwest through Russell County in the east.

It has been a difficult few years for farmers.

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While the general economy had been doing well prior to the coronavirus global pandemic, the farmers were caught in the middle of an international trade dispute over tariffs and fair competition.

Chinese retaliation against Americans farm products depressed commodity markets from 2018 through early this year.

When it appeared that the U.S. and China had come to a trade accord in January, the coronavirus hit along with massive disruptions in the supply chain.

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Farm bankruptcies were already up pre-COVID-19. The loss of the 2020 crop could push some already struggling agribusinesses over the brink.

The Alabama Farmers Federation is Alabama’s largest and most influential farmers’ organization.

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National

Poll: 24 percent say that they will definitely not get a new COVID-19 vaccine

Brandon Moseley

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A new poll by the Pew Research Center shows that the percentage of American adults who will get the new coronavirus vaccine has dropped to just 51 percent. At least 24 percent were adamant that they will definitely not get the new vaccine, while another 25 percent answered that they will probably not take the new vaccine if and when it is approved.

Just about half of U.S. adults, some 51 percent, now say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 if it were available today.

The percentage who would get the vaccine if it was available has fallen dramatically from the 72 percent who answered that they would take it back in May.

The share who say that they would definitely get a coronavirus vaccine has now dropped to just 21 percent — down from 42 percent in May. Some 30 percent answered that they would probably take the vaccine.

The vaccine is more popular with Democrats than Republicans, but those willing to get vaccinated has dropped among all demographics. Just 17 percent of those who identify as being Republican or leaning Republican say that they will definitely get the vaccine versus 24 percent for Democrats or lean Democrat.

Some 30 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of Democrats answered that they will definitely not get the vaccine if it were available — up from 15 percent and 8 percent in May.

Fifty-six percent of men answered that they will definitely or probably get vaccinated while just 49 percent of women said the same. Some 52 percent of whites will definitely or probably get vaccinated, while just 32 percent of Black people — the demographic which generally has the worst COVID-19 outcomes — responded that they will get the vaccine.

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Seventy-one percent of Asians and 56 percent of Hispanics say that they will definitely or probably get the vaccine.

Some 57 percent of those who are planning to get a vaccine say that they would be a little (36 percent) or a lot (21 percent) less likely to do so if they had to pay for it themselves, and 42 percent said that out-of-pocket costs would not change their likelihood of getting the vaccine.

Public health officials worry that if less than half of the population even gets vaccinated then herd health immunity will not be achieved through vaccination and the coronavirus could continue to spread.

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The new national survey by the Pew Research Center was conducted between Sept. 8 to 13 among 10,093 U.S. adults.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson announced that they have begun the third and final phase of vaccination trials. Sixty thousand people age 18 and over are participating in five countries including the U.S.

Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have been in phase 3 trials for weeks now and have suggested they may have enough data to know whether their vaccines are safe and effective by October or November of this year.

AstraZeneca suspended their trials in the U.S. after the early results showed some side effect issues, though those trials have since resumed.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a one shot vaccine while the other three require a second booster shot, doubling the logistical issues associated with mass vaccination.

President Donald Trump has said that the vaccine could be available at that time, but CDC Director Robert Redfield has scoffed at that optimistic timelines, saying he anticipates a vaccine not being ready until the middle of next year.

White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to Congress on Wednesday that vaccine production is already underway so that if one of the four companies in trials now receive FDA approval, ramp up time to full production will be minimal.

Redfield told Congress this week that the CDC urgently needs $6 billion for COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts.

Globally 982,513 people, including 206,598 Americans, have died from COVID-19 and more than 32 million people globally have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, including 7,140,137 Americans.

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Congress

Sewell votes to keep government open, extend programs

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell (VIA CSPAN)

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, this week voted for a measure to continue funding for the programs contained in the 12 annual appropriation acts for FY2020. The bill, HR8337, passed the House in a final vote of 359 to 57 and 1.

“I voted for today’s legislation to avert a catastrophic government shutdown and fund the critical programs that my constituents depend on,” Sewell said.

“At a time when our country is in the middle of a pandemic and millions of Americans are losing their homes and livelihoods to natural disasters, including hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, our government needs to be fully funded and operational so that the American people can get the resources they need,” Sewell said. “I am particularly proud of the provisions Democrats secured to save our seniors from a Medicare Part B premium hike, protect health, housing, and other programs for Veterans, and to provide repayment relief for our health care providers at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The resolution provides funding for critical government programs through Dec. 11 and extends vital health, surface transportation and veterans’ programs.

“While I’m disappointed that Senate Republicans and White House didn’t come to the table to agree to pass the long-term FY2021 funding bills that the House passed earlier this year, I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure a long-term funding bill is passed before this CR expires in December,” Sewell said. “Additionally, an agreement on further Coronavirus relief legislation is desperately needed. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and as the pandemic continues, municipalities, health care providers, essential workers, and small businesses are running out of resources from the CARES Act and relief is needed now.”

HR8337 included a list of programs that Sewell worked directly with House appropriators to secure in the FY2020 funding bill, which are extended in Tuesday’s continuing resolution. These include:

  • Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Loans
  • Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program
  • Commodity Supplemental Food program
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program
  • 2020 Decennial Census Program
  • Community Health Centers
  • Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program
  • Special Diabetes Program
  • Grants for transportation to VA medical facilities for Veterans living in “highly rural” areas
  • Childcare assistance for Veterans while they receive health care at a VA facility
  • An initiative to assess the feasibility of paying for veterans in highly rural areas to travel to the nearest Vet Center, a community-based facility that provides readjustment counseling and other services

The bill also funded the Department of Labor’s homeless veteran reintegration programs, such as job training, counseling and placement services.

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Additionally, the legislation:

  • Ensures USDA can fully meet the demand for Direct and Guaranteed Farm Ownership loans, especially for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers
  • Allows increased flexibility for the Small Business Administration to process certain small business loans and SBA Disaster Loans
  • Provides a one-year extension for surface transportation programs, including federal highway, transit, and road safety programs
  • Reauthorizes the Appalachian Regional Commission for one year
  • Delays a scheduled $4 billion reduction in funding for disproportionate share hospital (DSH), which are hospitals that serve large numbers of low-income and uninsured patients
  • Protects Medicare beneficiaries from the expected increase in Part B premiums for 2021 that is likely to result from the COVID-19 public health emergency
  • Provides repayment relief to health care providers by extending the time in which they must repay advances and reducing the interest rate under the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment program until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Allows Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to use the full amount available in the Disaster Relief Fund to respond to declared disasters
  • Increases accountability in the Commodity Credit Corporation, preventing funds for farmers from being misused for large oil companies
  • Ensures schoolchildren receive meals despite the pandemic’s disruption of their usual schedules, whether virtual or in-person, and expands Pandemic EBT access for young children in childcare

It has been 20 years since Congress has passed a balanced budget.

Sewell is running for her sixth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. Sewell has no Republican opponent in the Nov. 3 General Election.

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