Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of California have revamped the rules and regulations surrounding HEMP cultivation and they have significant changes to the current establishment. In addition, the County of Monterey will be assessing the hemp pilot program that is currently underway and ends August 2020.
In late October the USDA released its interim hemp rules that led to the complete enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill and interested parties have 60 days to submit comments to the published regulations. Thirty days after the proposed interim rules and regulations are approved the USDA will begin issuing hemp producer licenses. The 2018 Farm Bill requires submittal of a cultivation plan that must include practice to collect, testing the hemp within 15 days of the anticipated harvest, and the plan must also detail that testing samples are a representative of the entire hemp lot.
Applications will be accepted between August 1st and October 31st of each year. The plot cannot be harvested prior to testing and any plant thats test over .3% THC is deemed a non-compliant cannabis plant. Cultivation plans must also include how non-compliant cannabis plants will be destroyed and all products set to be destroyed are required to be reported to the USDA.
Applications must also include contact information and a criminal history report. Applicants with a felony conviction within the last 10 years are prohibited from license eligibility unless they can prove they were legally operating under the 2014 Farm Bill. Similar to state cultivation licenses, USDA licenses cannot be sold, transferred, pledged or otherwise disposed of and are valid for 3 years.
In sunny California, Governor Newsom recently signed SB-153 a bill that significantly changed hemp laws in our state across the board. Most notable under this bill is that the definition of industrial hemp has been revised. There is now a definition specific to the California Health and Safety Code and a separate and distinct definition under the Food and Agricultural Code that is specific to only hemp cultivation.
Another drastic change under the bill is the definition of what constitutes an agricultural research institute which is how many operators have maintained compliance throughout the State thus far. SB153 narrows the scope of who qualifies as an established agricultural research institute and registration will be required for those operating under a research facility and a research plan must be submitted to the local county agricultural commissioner that details the cultivation plan.
Under SB-153 hemp cannot be cultivated in a licensed cannabis premises and if it is the product will be considered cannabis. The bill also prohibits licensing to individuals who have been convicted of a controlled substance within the last 10 years and also creates penalties and enforcement provisions for applications that contain false statements.
Both SB-153 and the revamped rules published by the USDA contain a plethora of additional details that I encourage all interested parties to thoroughly review if they plan to participate in the program.
Locally, the hemp pilot program is in full throttle and only 1 crop has been harvested thus far. It has been reported that the plants exceeded the .3% THC threshold and as such are required to be destroyed. Since the pilot program was a short 1-year program, the Monterey County Cannabis Standing Committee will be addressing this topic in the future. All those interested should make it a priority to participate in the conversation to ensure your voices are heard.
Jennifer Rosenthal is a local cannabis and criminal defense attorney. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and does not reflect an official position of the Association.