The Arkansas Industrial Hemp Act (Act 981) was drafted by Nicholas Dial, Jeremy Fisher, Gary Fults, and Melissa Fults and passed in the spring of 2017. The bill was sponsored by Representative David Hillman and Senator John Cooper. The bill passed through both the Senate and the House of Representatives nearly unanimously, with only one vote against by Representative Andy Mayberry. The bill was not signed by Governor Asa Hutchinson, but was enacted into Arkansas law following the 2017 regular session.
Section 7606 of former President Barack Obama’s 2014 farm bill permits the cultivation of industrial hemp under state regulated research pilot programs. Arkansas Act 981 establishes a research pilot program for the state to be overseen and regulated by the Arkansas Plant Board in conjunction with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness.
Act 981 does not restrict research to universities only, but permits participation by farmers, processors, and market researchers. Research opportunities include, but are not limited to, development of cloth, cordage, fiber, food, fuel, paint, paper, particle board, plastics, seed, seed meal, and seed oil for consumption.