Hemp growers eye opportunity within medical marijuana legislation

Posted at 12:53 PM, Feb 12, 2024

KEWASKUM — Hemp growers in the state are among those who are keeping a close eye on pending medical marijuana legislation.

DNA Hemp, headquartered north of West Bend is entering its 6th growing season and this could be the year that cultivates change.

Ashely Shafer recalled how the farm got its start, "I remember when my husband told me he's like 'Babe — we're growing hemp!' And I looked at him, and I was like 'We are?!' and he's like, 'Yes!'".

That was shortly after the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp production.

"The wild man planted 10 acres of hemp," Ashley added with a smile.

Hemp cannot get you high, but its cousin, marijuana, can.

"The whole intention behind buying this farm and now putting in the infrastructure is absolutely to be able to grow cannabis of all varieties here on the farm," explained Ashley. "Absolutely. Yes."

Wisconsin's pending medical marijuana legislation would allow farms, like DNA Hemp, to grow for a price. The initial fee listed for a cannabis grower license is $10,000. It shoots to $50,000 for a medical cannabis processor license.

"What hoops are we going to jump through now to be able to make this dream come true?" Ashley wondered aloud. "I just feel like there are so many red lines and tape and rules and regulations."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has described the bill, which would create 5 state-run dispensaries, as possibly the "most restrictive version in the entire country" and Ashley agrees. "We're left in the dust on the island of prohibition, which is absolutely wild for me to think of — especially when we talk about Wisconsin agriculture. Don't get me wrong," she continued, "legislation needs to happen. Regulation needs to happen, especially when we're talking about plant medicine."

For now, her focus is on the seed that's been planted as she waits for the opportunity to sprout.

"I think that will come to fruition when the right legislation is in place. So yes, there is still hope for us and we are gonna keep on keeping on. Because we did not come this far to only come this far!"

When it comes to growing hemp Ashely says Wisconsin has the right set of circumstances to become a leader in the grain and fiber arena.

According to Hemp Benchmarks, Wisconsin plants around 600 acres of hemp. Minnesota does more than double that, while Colorado is harvesting more than 7,000 acres.