RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina House has backed a plan paving the way for the state to join 28 others in the burgeoning marketplace for industrial hemp.

The House on Monday gave tentative approval to a bill allowing for state land grant universities to grow industrial hemp through pilot programs. Growers could be charged with a low-level felony for growing marijuana on property designated for hemp.

Industrial hemp is a variety of cannabis with low levels of the psychoactive THC chemical. It has high nutritional value and can be used to make biodegradable plastics, fuels, clothing and rope.

The bill builds on a law passed last year that legalized the crop and created the Industrial Hemp Commission. Federal law opened the door to industrial hemp research in 2014.