Advocates for medical marijuana secured a small victory recently when North Carolina state senators passed a bill to legalize it, sending legislation to the state House.
While the bill had broad support in the Senate, an Asheville-area senator called on lawmakers to amend it so that more local farmers can grow and sell the product. Sen. Julie Mayfield, D-Buncombe, said proposed regulations would exclude a large swath of local farmers because the bill requires licensees to produce the drug, process it and sell it at its own dispensaries.
“Indeed, a quarter of the entire acreage in the country that is under hemp production is here in North Carolina,” Mayfield said in a speech on the senate floor. “A quarter of the entire production in the country. These farmers and small business owners literally plowed the ground in North Carolina to make it fertile for the legalization of marijuana when we got to that point.”
Mayfield’s claim suggesting that North Carolina is home to 25% of the nation’s hemp-producing acreage was included in stories by WRAL, the News & Observer, the North Carolina Insider newsletter and others.
But it’s not true.
Shortly after emailing Mayfield, PolitiFact NC was contacted by a hemp policy advocate who took responsibility for the inaccurate statistic.
Nicolette Baglio, who owns a hemp business in western North Carolina, said she and other hemp advocates have been tracking North Carolina’s proposal. Baglio said her group didn’t learn about the Senate’s scheduled vote until just hours beforehand. In a rush to compile information about North Carolina’s hemp industry, Baglio said her team miscalculated the state’s hemp production and then included it in an email sent to every senator.
Speaking to PolitiFact, Mayfield argued that, despite the error, her broader point is valid because, although her percentage was off, North Carolina remains a top producer of hemp.
“This bill, while taking a long overdue step, shuts out N.C. businesses and farmers and will make already large, wealthy, out of state companies larger and wealthier at the expense of small hemp farmers and businesses,” Mayfield said in an email. “We should work harder to figure out a way to let our homegrown businesses benefit from this new market and keep our dollars in-state rather than let our dollars flow to out-of-state cannabis corporations.”
North Carolina planted 4% of the nation’s industrial hemp last year – accounting for 2,150 of the U.S.’s total 54,152 acres of hemp planted. Seven other states planted more: Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, California, Minnesota and Utah.
North Carolina was an even larger producer of harvested hemp.
North Carolina harvested 5.5% of the nation’s industrial hemp — 1,850 of the nation’s 33,480 acres. North Carolina and Oregon are tied for sixth in harvesting industrial hemp, behind Montana, Colorado, Minnesota, California, and Utah.
Baglio said her team initially thought that North Carolina accounted for 25% of U.S. hemp production because they compared a statistic from Hemp Industry Daily — which said the state has 14,016 acres available for hemp growth — with the USDA report that 54,152 acres of hemp was planted last year.
Mayfield said she wrote Baglio’s talking point in her notes, which she can be seen reading from in video footage of the senate debate. Baglio apologized for providing Mayfield with the wrong stat, saying the rest of the group’s information is accurate and that Mayfield is a trustworthy lawmaker.
“She has truly been one of the only legislators that I feel like has listened to her constituents and has taken up some of the main issues at hand and that [the bill] is essentially cutting out the entire industry that paved the way” for medical marijuana, Baglio said.