South Carolina's farmers are struggling. Hemp could be the help they need.

The seeds of innovation are being planted in the south

A field of hemp.
(Image credit: North Dakota Department of Agriculture via AP)

There's a new plant growing in South Carolina's soil. It's tall, green, and has seven leafy points. One would be forgiven for mistaking it for marijuana. But it's not. It's hemp, and it could bring a fresh flow of cash and innovation to the state's farmers.

Hemp is a cousin of marijuana, but they are not the same plant. While they're both varieties of cannabis sativa, hemp contains almost no THC, the stuff in pot that gets users high. As a crop, hemp is relatively low maintenance and has a lot of applications: Its fibers can be used to create strong fabric, or ground up and used as mulch. Its oil can be used in cooking and in moisturizers, or turned into the supplement known as cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Often, its seeds are used in animal feed. In other words, hemp is a versatile plant with a lot of potential. But for years, its cultivation has been banned in the U.S. Now, that's starting to change.

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