On a Sunday afternoon in Goldfield, a “Wanted” sign whipped around in the wind. It was hung from the side of an Old West storefront. The town of Goldfield (population 286 in the 2010 census) straddles US-95, and it’s one of few stops along the 400-mile stretch connecting Las Vegas with Reno.
Most of the town’s businesses — its gift shops, its chamber of commerce, even a radio station that calls itself the “Voice of the Old West” — are set in Spaghetti Western storefronts, where one might think a Wanted notice would signal a sheriff’s attempt to catch a fugitive. But the county sheriff did not post the sign hanging in Goldfield in March. It was posted by a farmer named Jim McCoy. After “Wanted,” the next line read: “Nevadans to grow hemp.”
Hemp remains a federally controlled substance, but about 35 states, including Nevada, have pilot programs that allow farmers like McCoy to grow, research and sell hemp, a variety of cannabis. Last year, more than 20 growers planted 429 acres as part of the state’s program, which is administered by the Nevada Department of Agriculture, and demand is expected to keep growing.
“It’s taken off like a weed,” said Tick Segerblom, who as a state senator, sponsored the bills that were the framework for Nevada’s hemp program. “There’s an incredible amount of interest in it.”
Although hemp is related to marijuana, it contains a very low concentration of THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana’s high. Hemp can be used in commercial product as long as the product contains less than 0.3 percent THC. Farmers say their hemp crop could be used in paper, rope and textile production. So far though, the largest market in many states is for