Hemp handlers hoping to strike oil in Eau Claire, Michigan City

The widespread legal production of commercial hemp is still a year away, but a fair amount of hemp-related activity is already going on in Michiana.

The law allows hemp to be handled this year by people who obtained a license to conduct research on all things hemp-related.

“Right here we have the T-1, and that’s a variety we got from our friends in Kentucky,” said Jeremy Dybdahl of BC HEMP CO.

There are all kinds of hemp in the house in two greenhouses located outside Eau Claire.

The 23rd license awarded for research-related hemp handling in Michigan went to three Berrien Springs High School class of 2008 classmates.

“We realize there’s a time to get in, and that time’s right now,” Dybdahl said. “This is a new thing for Michigan, and it could save a lot of farms that are struggling right now.

Dybdahl says there are a couple thousand plants on the premises already. HEMP CO. is primarily interested in extracting CBD oil, although the company plans to turn the bio-mass left over into pellets that can be burned as fuel in heaters.

“Our research is going to tell us what we can plant, at what time we can plant, what strain is going to work best in our environment, in our soil,” Dybdahl said. “Industrial hemp was legal back in the World War II days, then it got demonized and illegal about 81 years ago, if I’m correct, and so, yeah, we have to get back to it, learn it, research it.”

Meantime, a Colorado-based company Hippo Extracts acquired plants off U.S. 12 in Michigan City for the purpose of extracting CBD oil from hemp.

“They’re looking for people, I mean right away. l know three jobs they want are three engineers. Those are high-paying jobs,” said Clarence Hulce, executive director of the Michigan City Economic Development Corporation.

Hulce admits it’s a project that landed in his lap when company officials from PHM Brands came knocking on his door unannounced.

“They’re buying an additional building to grow seedlings but also looking to invest over $6 million in the community and hire 30 jobs, average pay scale $20 an hour,” Hulce said. “We’re excited to be on the cutting edge of a new industry.”

PHM received its license to handle hemp in February. The company is mainly interested in extracting CBD oil.

The first unrestricted commercial crop for hemp is expected in 2020, after further rules and regulations regarding the industry are developed.