4 Things to Know About Growing Hemp

Under the Final Interim USDA Hemp Production plan, several rules, requirements, and regulations pave the way for those looking to start a legal hemp farm after approval of their relevant State’s hemp-growth plan. Below, we’ve compiled four fundamentals to growing hemp, including hemp licensing, growing conditions, testing, and record-keeping, to help ensure compliance and facilitate a legal operation.  

You need a USDA-approved hemp producer licensing.

Obtaining a USDA-approved hemp producer license from the state in which you intend to grow is a critical prerequisite to legally grow hemp. License applications require essential contact information such as name, address, phone number, and email in addition to criminal records. Although still open to comments and negotiation, under the draft Final Interim rules, applications must be submitted between August 1 and October 31 in the following years. This window is devised to accommodate ample preparation of hemp planting and harvesting. 

Hemp producer licenses are valid for three years until December of the third year after approval. Any person or entity is eligible to apply for a hemp producer license. However, those convicted of a felony related to any controlled substance are ineligible and restricted from participating for ten years from the date of their conviction. 

Hemp prefers warm-weather climates.

Hemp plants are capable of thriving in many environments but prefer warm-weather climates with fertile, organic soil and about 30 inches of rain per year. Accordingly, hemp must be grown in soil with adequate drainage to ensure the land isn’t excessively wet and saturated after rainfall. In the northern hemisphere, hemp is typically planted between March and May, matures to complete its growing cycle in around three to four months, and can be grown on as little land as one hectare, which is 100 square meters. Proper growth conditions are important, as hemp plants can exceed the 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) limit in unfavorable growing conditions.

You should be prepared to provide an accurate legal description of the property you plan to use for hemp production to the USDA. Licensed producers are also required to report their hemp crop acreage to the FSA to comply with the information-sharing provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Growing hemp requires compliance with USDA sampling and testing regulations.

To ensure compliance with USDA regulations, hemp growers must adhere to sampling and testing standards and procedures. The 2018 Farm Bill classifies hemp with THC levels above 0.3% as marijuana. Marijuana remains a Schedule I substance federally. The inclusion of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (“THCA”) is a notable change in testing protocol as the USDA considers “total THC” as the sum of THC and THCA content. Accordingly, a certified federal, state, local, or tribal official takes a representative sample within 15 days prior to the anticipated harvest to test THC and THCA of your hemp plants to approve the crop for harvest.

To meet compliance standards, legal hemp must be under 0.3% total THC with a measurement of uncertainty, at a confidence of 95% that no more than 1% of the plants exceed acceptable THC levels. As any hemp that fails to pass testing standards is considered a controlled substance, non-compliant plants must be disposed of, a process regulated and overseen by DEA-registered, USDA-approved federal, state, local, or tribal law enforcement officers. 

You must maintain accurate and detailed bookkeeping of your hemp production.

Licensed hemp producers need to maintain records for at least three-year increments of hemp plants acquired, produced, stored, and disposed of. The USDA Final Interim rules require access to any submitted confidential data and the USDA has the right to share this information with law enforcement if necessary. Additionally, hemp producers are required to submit annual reports to the USDA to provide up-to-date contact information and statistics such as location type, acreage disposed, and acreage harvested. This documentation must be submitted by December 15 of each year and is integral to USDA compliance. 

As federal and state hemp law continue to play catch up with the demand and popularity of hemp and CBD, it becomes increasingly important to consult with qualified cannabis lawyers to ensure compliance and receive credible advisement. Texas hemp lawyer, Chelsie Spencer, works with a range of clients in the hemp and cannabidiol industries and remains active in legislative activity impacting legal cannabis companies. Contact Ritter Spencer Cheng or give us a call at 214.295.5070 for more information.