STEELE, Ala. (WBRC) - It looks like pot, from the air and even up close. It smells like pot and is even a member of the cannabis family.
But, it's not marijuana.
“That would not be a good idea for anyone to smoke the plants. It would do nothing for them. This is for CBD oil,” says Fran Summerlin. She owns Summerworth Down, once a horse farm she inherited from her father.
Soon, it will yield its first hemp crop and one of the first since Alabama first outlawed the plant in 1937 and approved applications last March.
"We have to fill out a harvest application form, and then when that gets approved, the state has to come and test our plants for the THC level, right before we harvest. And if they pass, which hopefully they will, we get to harvest," Summerlin told WBRC.
She got the idea from an article about the legalization of hemp, and discussed it with a friend teaching her drumming lessons.
“And she said, ‘Oh, I heard some news, and a way we might be able to make some money.’ And I said, 'Well, that’s new, I never made any money,” said Ed Glaze.
“We sent from the phone just sent the application straight to OfficeMax, because since I haven’t made any money, I didn’t have any ink in my printer. So we went to OfficeMax and got the form, filled it out, and the next morning Fran filled it out and we got approved, I believe, with two days left in the window of application time,” Glaze recalled.
They created a partnership called Knowing Trees LLC.
Their efforts to keep the crop weeded, fertilized and watered, grew harder as the plants grew taller. They first used a golf cart, then an ATV, but the plants became so tall they had to do the work manually.
"We were putting in the liquid fish fertilizer, which smells great," said Glaze of the foul-smelling substance, to the laughter of his partners. "So we were mixing that in, with water--oh yeah, what you really want to do is leave some of that out and come back tomorrow."
But they didn't have problems with insects, and deer who wandered the area rejected it.
Hemp is still new to the state, and new to regulations.
"When we applied for our license, we had to give them GPS coordinates, so they could give it to law enforcement, which they did and we have not had one problem," Summerlin recalled.
When it's harvested, they will send the plants to a processor who will sell half of the CBD oil. Summerlin and her partners will sell the other half.
“The use for cannabidiol, and the terpenes, and substances that were coming from not only hemp but other sources, they were being used to treat seizures and having an amazing result. It’s amazing we haven’t explored this before,” says partner Philip Miles.
Before they harvest, they have to apply for harvest with the department of agriculture, who tests the plants to make sure they have the correct amount of THC.
Hemp plants are supposed to have 0.03% THC or less, which is why they’re useless for getting high.