Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Industrial hemp crop to sprout in Westmoreland PA business park

By Joe Napsha
Source: triblive.com

Westmoreland County's I-70 industrial park in South Huntington Township is part of the effort to draw new business. 

A mini-industrial hemp farm is planned for a five-acre plot in a business park off Interstate 70 in South Huntingdon as part of an experimental project with a Mt. Lebanon-area business that is leasing the land from Westmoreland County.
The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. will get $1 from Commonwealth Alternative Medicinal Options under terms of a short-term lease for the farmland signed Wednesday, said Jason Rigone, executive director of the county IDC. The county sees the lease arrangement as an opportunity to put the land near the village of Fitz Henry to use for research and possible development of a new industry, Rigone said.
Matt Mallory, president of Commonwealth Alternative, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The company bills itself as a “medical cannabis company founded on education and scientific research.”
State Rep. Eric Nelson, R-Hempfield, spearheaded a coalition of business, education and agricultural institutions to win approval for one of 15 state-issued industrial hemp research certificates.
Lest any marijuana smoker think the crop could be harvested for anything other than industrial purposes, Nelson snuffed out that idea. Industrial marijuana has a lower concentration of THC, a psychoactive chemical.
“It is non-euphoric. You can smoke a wheelbarrow of it and you won't get high,” Nelson said.
The coalition is working with Penn State Extension in Westmoreland County, which will help two Hempfield farmers grow the plant, and with the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, which will do a marketing analysis for product use. Neither Gary L. Sheppard, Westmoreland County extension director, nor a Pitt spokesman could be reached for comment.
Industrial hemp can be used to strengthen concrete; make kitty litter, injection-molded plastics and vehicle side mirrors; or serve as high-end bedding for racehorses, Nelson said. The oil extracted from the plant can be used in vitamins as a health supplement, Nelson said.
While Pennsylvania is the fifth-largest consumer of industrial hemp in the nation, the state hasn't been allowed to grow it, Nelson said. He hopes a 14-county hay-making consortium in the region can join forces to grow the crop. It takes 15,000 acres of hemp to feed an industrial hemp refining plant, Nelson said.
“My goal is to get a hemp refining process in Westmoreland County, which will bring in more jobs,” Nelson said.

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