Alabama farmers industrial hope hemp sprouts into cash crop


Alabama’s Industrial Hemp Research Program allows licensed farmers to legally grow hemp for the first time in nearly a century. (Stephen Quinn |

By Stephen Quinn, abc3340

Fran Summerlin wanted a new purpose for the farm she inherited from her father. On Monday, she stared out at rows of green hemp plants that are a part of Alabama history.

‘It makes me so happy. They’re just like my little children.’

Summerlin and her partners are part of Alabama’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. The program allows for the regulated harvesting of the plant for the first time in almost a century. The Farm Bill passed by Congress in 2018 deemed hemp an agricultural commodity. The plant is no longer classified as a controlled substance, opening the door for state’s to begin programs for growing the plant.

Licensed farmers are hoping to cash in on the demand for CBD oil, a product which has been used to treat physical ailments such as epilepsy that is processed from industrial hemp.

Industrial hemp is a cannabis plant which appears to the naked eye to be virtually identical to cannabis plant’s selectively bred to produce marijuana. The difference is in the chemistry. Hemp does not contain high levels of THC, the mind-altering compound which defines marijuana.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries said the program is regulated to prevent abuse. Farmers cannot allow the hemp plants to contain more than 0.3 percent THC.

“We have to send the samples off to the lab to get them tested,” said Summerlin’s partner, Ed Glaze.

Summerlin,, Glaze and Gadsden based attorney Phillip Miles plan to send their hemp to an out-of-state processor who will extract the oil from the plant.

“The end goal is of course to supply a quality product and hopefully make some money along the way if we can,” said Miles.

The group has planted 6,000 hemp seedlings at their farm at the base of Chandler Mountain which they expect to harvest in late August. The group hopes the pilot program and their plants will continue to grow.

“It’s almost like a wild west adventure because everything is new.”