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Department: Grower shredded hemp crop because THC too high

Posted at 11:07 AM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 12:09:13-05

RULO, Neb. (AP) — A hemp crop that had been grown under Nebraska license this year was shredded because its THC level was too high.

The growers, Justin and Hilari Courtney, were among 10 licensed this year by the Nebraska Agriculture Department following federal legalization of the low-THC version of the cannabis plant as a commodity. The 2018 farm bill removed hemp from a list of controlled substances. THC is the cannabis compound that gives marijuana its high.

The bill requires states to set their own rules on how the hemp is grown, and the Legislature passed regulations earlier this year.

The department said that of the other nine licensees, six completed the harvest, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. One did not plant a crop this year, one donated the plants to a university to finish the project and one was given an extension to finish up.

The errant crop focusing on hemp that produces CBD oil was grown near Rulo in southeastern Nebraska. A first required sampling of the crop on Oct. 10 showed THC levels below the legal maximum, said state agriculture department spokeswoman Christin Kamm.

Both varieties grown and tested were well below the legal threshold for THC. The Courtneys then requested an extension of the assigned harvest date, because they didn’t want to harvest with the low level, Kamm said.

The department agreed, and the next samples were collected Nov. 13. They tested out well above the state maximum, Kamm said, and the department ordered the crop to be destroyed. That was done under department oversight on Nov. 26.

A relative of the growers, Steve Johansen, said the family spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on the crop, making mistakes it will never make again. For example: When a crop nears harvest and the THC is increasing as the oil content gets higher, testing needs to be done more frequently to ensure the THC doesn’t exceed the threshold, he said.

He described the crop destroyed as beautiful.

“But it is what it is. ... And today’s another day, and I have to worry about today and tomorrow.” he said.