More than 120 farmers in South Carolina have signed up for just 20 licenses to grow hemp next year, The State newspaper reported.
The intense demand came as a surprise after a slow start to applications, followed by a week-long deadline extension because of Hurricane Irma.
State agriculture officials say the licenses will be issued to growers who have a contracted buyer, a hemp agreement with a research university and have passed a background check.
If more than 20 farmers meet the criteria, agriculture officials say licenses will be granted based in part on chances of success with the crop. The Department of Agriculture will also try to spread the licenses across the state to see which regions have the best growing conditions.
After the first year of 20 licenses for 20 acres, the program is scheduled to expand to 40 licenses for 40 acres each in 2019.