State legislatures have taken action to establish state-licensed hemp programs and promote hemp as an agricultural commodity in recent years. A wide range of products, including fibers, textiles, paper, construction and insulation materials, cosmetic products, animal feed, food, and beverages all may use hemp.
The 2018 Farm Bill changed federal policy regarding hemp, including the removal of hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and the consideration of hemp as an agricultural product. The bill legalized hemp under certain restrictions and defined hemp as the plant species Cannabis sativa L. with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. Previously, the 2014 Farm Bill provided a definition for hemp and allowed for state departments of agriculture or universities to grow and produce hemp as part of research or pilot programs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees hemp cultivation as the responsible federal regulatory agency. In October 2019, the USDA issued an interim final rule utlining a federal program for growing hemp. The USDA will issue a final rule after the 2020 crop season. The rule reemphasizes an earlier USDA ruling that interstate transportation is legal, even if the shipment travels through a state that does allow the growing of hemp.
The 2018 Farm Bill allows states and tribes to submit a plan and apply for primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp in their state or in their tribal territory. As described in the USDA interim final rule, a state plan must include certain requirements, such as keeping track of land, testing methods, and disposal of plants or products that exceed the allowed THC concentration. The USDA will review and issue a decision within 60 days on plans submitted by a state to the agency with the goal of providing states enough time to implement their plan before the 2020 hemp season. The USDA provides updated information on the status of state and tribal plans that have been submitted.
Additionally, the USDA has announced the availability of crop insurance programs for 2020, including Whole-Farm Revenue Protection and Multi-Peril Crop Insurance under certain restrictions. According to the USDA, eligible hemp producers may also be eligible for other programs, such as farm loans and participation in USDA conservation programs.
State policymakers have considered various policy issues — the definition of hemp, licensure of growers, regulation and certification of seeds, state-wide commissions and legal protection of growers. At least 47 states have enacted legislation to establish hemp production programs or allow for hemp cultivation research.
2019 Legislation Update
Forty-eight states and Puerto Rico considered over 200 bills related to hemp production and regulation in 2019. At least six states—Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Iowa, Ohio and Texas—enacted legislation to establish state programs. South Dakota passed House Bill 1191, which the governor vetoed. Other states, such as Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma and Maryland, enacted legislation to expand or rename existing programs. New Hampshire created a study committee (House Bill 459). Mississippi also created a task force to study the cultivation of hemp (House Bill 1547).
2018 Legislation Update
At least 38 states considered legislation related to industrial hemp in 2018. These bills ranged from clarifying existing laws to establishing new licensing requirements and programs. At least six states—Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey and Oklahoma—enacted legislation in 2018 establishing hemp research and industrial hemp pilot programs. Georgia created the House Study Committee on Industrial Hemp Production. States, already allowing for industrial hemp programs, continued to consider policies related to licensure, funding, seed certification, and other issues. For example, Tennessee amended its Commercial Feed Law to include hemp.
2017 Legislation Update
Thirty-eight states and Puerto Rico considered legislation related to industrial hemp in 2017. These bills ranged from clarifying existing laws to establishing new licensing requirements and programs. At least 15 states enacted legislation in 2017—Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, North Dakota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. At least four states—Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin—authorized new research or pilot programs.