The 2018 Farm Bill finally removed the hemp plant from the list of Schedule I Controlled Substances and redefined it as an agricultural commodity. Essentially, this made it legal, on the federal level, to cultivate and process hemp for commercial purposes.
Under the bill, states were required to draft a hemp regulatory plan and submit it to the USDA in order to gain primary regulatory authority over hemp production within their jurisdiction. The plans had to meet certain criteria in order to be approved. For example, the proposed plans had to have policies for quality control, testing, transporting hemp across state lines, tracking land use, disposal of plants that exceed the THC limit, and more.
Two years later, where do the western states’ hemp regulations stand? Here, we’ll provide an update on the current status of hemp regulations in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, California, Idaho, and Montana.
Colorado has had a successful hemp growing and oversight program for six years, thanks to a pilot program launched after the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Colorado’s new plan, submitted in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill, has officially been approved by the USDA but won’t go into effect until November 2020.
Meanwhile, Colorado hemp farmers, and some political leaders, are at odds with the new federal rules, claiming that they still treat hemp too much like a drug, instead of a commodity, and fear that the new federal regulations will actually hold the Colorado hemp industry back, after six years of steady progress.
You can apply for a Colorado hemp license, and learn more, here.
The Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) hemp plan was approved by the USDA in February of this year. The WDA’s rules still need to pass a state promulgation process, which includes public comments, before the state finalizes its regulations and puts the plan into effect.
In the meantime, the Governor approved emergency rules on February 20, 2020, which will remain in effect for 120 days. The emergency rules allow for a 2020 growing season while the final promulgation process is completed.
For more details, you can visit the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.
The USDA approved Nebraska’s proposed hemp growing regulations in January of this year and the state began taking applications immediately. Unlike some of the surrounding states, Nebraska’s plan is somewhat limiting. It specifically allows for only 270 cultivator licenses, 30 processor-handler licenses, 15 broker licenses, and 400 cultivation sites. A Hemp Commission will be formed in July of 2021 to help administer the laws and grow the program.
You can apply for a license and learn more here.
As of today, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has not yet submitted a hemp regulatory plan to the USDA, although it is in the process of preparing a plan for submission.
Historically, California’s hemp growing regulations have been complicated, mostly due to various vague and conflicting laws. The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, for example, passed in 2013, and launched in 2017, but still has no program or board to administer the law. There are other pieces of pending hemp legislation, as well, all awaiting approval.
Those wishing to grow hemp in California can sign up to receive email updates from the CDFA and be notified when key decisions are made.
Idaho is only one of two states in the nation (Mississippi is the second) that has not yet legalized industrial hemp. In February of 2020, the Idaho Senate passed legislation to legalize hemp cultivation, but the bill was killed by the House of Representatives in early March.
Idaho has passed legislation allowing for the transportation of hemp through their state, but has not passed legislation that distinguishes industrial hemp from marijuana, which means that truckers passing through the state can be charged with marijuana trafficking, even if their load is defined as industrial hemp in every other state.
Once again, Idaho farmers will just have to wait and see if the laws will change.
Montana’s hemp growing plan was approved by the USDA and will take effect on November 1, 2020. In the meantime, Montana will continue to allow hemp cultivation under their Pilot Program and 2014 Farm Bill rules. However, the hemp plant licensing application period for 2020 expired on June 1, 2020, which means potential growers will have to wait until the new laws take effect on November 1st.
Before cultivating, processing, selling, or transporting hemp through the western states, please contact McDonough Law for assistance. We’ll help guide you through the current and upcoming changes so that you’re always compliant and making the most of this new cash crop.