MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Hemp industry leaders in Wisconsin are asking state officials to reconsider its classification of hemp and hemp products as "non-essential business."
In a letter written to Gov. Tony Evers, officials from the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Wisconsin Hemp Farmers and Manufacturers Association said the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has taken the opinion that CBD shops and the retail sale of hemp and hemp products are non-essential businesses per the Safer at Home Order.
"While we certainly appreciate and understand the enormous and unprecedented challenges Wisconsin is facing right now, we believe WEDC is misguided in its opinion, and that hemp businesses are essential and therefore must not be required to close," the letter said.
The letter said the pandemic is causing considerable stress and anxiety for millions of people in Wisconsin, and many will turn to counseling, medications, and depressants to cope and heal.
"We are very discouraged that those seeking CBD products to alleviate stress, anxiety, and many other ailments may not have the availability, in the safest manner possible and following DHS COVID-19 guidelines, to visit a local CBD store," the letter continued. Officials said visiting these stores would allow consumers to "get the advice and product they seek to help them with any physical, emotional or mental anguish they may be experiencing."
The letter also calls attention to the many uses of hemp in a variety of products, including personal care, food and beverage.
The industry leaders said hemp farmers in Wisconsin are questioning what the decision means for them as they approach the beginning of the outdoor growing season, such as whether or not they can purchase seeds for planting, if they can transport seeds and fertilizers, and if greenhouse production will have to shut down.
Officials said they hope the letter helps explain the breadth and diversity of products produced from hemp, and educates the WEDC to change its mind.
"If the state continues to treat hemp-related business as anything less than essential, it will be arbitrarily treating hemp as a second-class agricultural commodity," the letter said. "It will be picking winners and losers for certain essential products and materials based solely on the fact that some contain hemp-derived ingredients."
Hemp officials said they have heard from many people who have a hard time understanding why liquor stores and firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers are deemed essential, "while facilities that sell products with medicinal value and can actually improve one's health may not be."
"People need access now more than ever to products that may help them through these troubling times," the letter continued. "The agricultural community needs all the help it can get right now."
The letter is signed by Rob Richard, President of the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance; Joe Bragger, President of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation; and Phillip Scott, President of the Wisconsin Hemp Farmers and Manufacturers Association.