By Stephanie Menders [email protected] (860) 425-4256

NORWICH – When Kevin Blacker stood in the downpour on Terminal Way in Norwich on Tuesday, home to the former Shipping Street industrial district, he looked past the deteriorating buildings and overgrown shrubbery.

“You might look around and see this land and think it’s decrepit junk or contaminated or good for nothing,” Noank-based farmer Kevin Blacker said to a crowd of close to 50 farmers and local officials. “But when I look around here I see the potential for industrial hemp processors, grain and fertilizer importers, organics recyclers. There is a lot of potential that legislators need to focus some attention on.”

Blacker, along with the Connecticut Farm Bureau and the state Department of Agriculture, hosted a discussion on the opportunities for hemp production in Connecticut.

Blacker said the city’s two rivers and extensive freight line make it an ideal location for the hemp farming industry to grow new roots.

Though it derives from the same plant species as marijuana, and looks essentially the same, hemp has a significantly lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive component found in marijuana. It’s used to make commercial products ranging from animal food and textiles to rope and biofuels.

But its nearly identical appearance to marijuana has made states wary of accepting its production within their boundaries. 

In the U.S., industrial hemp is overseen by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, but a recent push would rather see control turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 2014, President Barack Obama signed a Farm Bill that defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana and authorized educational institutes or state departments of agriculture to regulate and conduct research or pilot programs.

Connecticut is one of 39 states that has defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana, and removed

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