Hemp Top 40: major developments in hemp reform since the Farm Bill passed—the good, the bad, and the ugly

Mar 20, 2019

Since the Farm Bill was signed in late December, clearing the way for states to take over hemp regulatory duties, much has transpired. Here’s a quick look at just 40 of the many major developments that have taken place recently as a result of federal hemp reforms—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

  1. To date, more than 40 states have defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana and removed barriers to its production.

  2. USDA has began the process of gathering information to create regulations for commercial production of industrial hemp, including provisions for federally regulated hemp production and the submission of state and Native American tribal plans to USDA. The agency said it plans to issue regulations by fall 2019 to accommodate the 2020 planting season and will issue rules overseeing industrial hemp and its products by fall of 2019. On March 13th, the USDA hosted a hemp listening session to receive feedback from stakeholders regarding regulation of hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill.

  3. In an effort to speed up the FDA’s efforts to develop rules for CBD, a group of bipartisan lawmakers penned a letter to now outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb asking the FDA about the agencies intentions in relation to CBD. A similar, but separate, letter was sent to the USDA.

  4. Cannabis giant Tilray Inc. (TLRY) acquired Manitoba Harvest, the world’s largest hemp-foods manufacturer, for $419 million CAD ($319 million USD). Manitoba products are sold at more than 16,000 retail stores throughout North America.

  5. Canopy Growth (CGC) announced plans to cultivate and process hemp in the state of New York while pledging to invest at least $500 million in hemp production. Shortly thereafter, Canopy Growth announced a partnership with Martha Stuart to develop a line of CBD products.

[Martha Stewart is introducing a line of CBD products with Snoop Dogg’s cannabis company]

  1. The U.S. Hemp Authority announced the first 13 recipients of its Certification Seal for meeting high quality and safety standards. Founded by the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, the group includes industry leaders and organizations such as the Hemp Industries Association and the American Herbal Products Association. Among the recipients are CV Sciences Inc, HempMeds, Bluebird Botanicals, and CW Hemp.

  2. The Idaho Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved about $240,000 to acquire three hemp testing devices to be used by the department of agriculture and the Idaho State Police.

  3. The DEA has announced a search for a device which can quickly test cannabis. The device “must provide specificity to distinguish between hemp and marijuana,” according to the notice.

  4. A Florida bill that would regulate hemp growing and sales unanimously passed a Senate committee hearing. The bill has to make it through two more committees before it goes to the Senate floor for a full vote.


    Kentucky became the first state to submit its state hemp plan to the USDA. The farm bill gives the department 60 days to approve the plan, however, the government shutdown may have delayed progress. Kentucky hemp processors reported nearly $58 million in gross sales for 2018, compared with nearly $17 million in 2017. Processors reported $23.4 million in capital improvements. An image of US hemp-based product sales by category is shown. Hemp-derived CBD is listed at $1,299 million. Industrial applications is listed at $588 million. Personal care is listed at $259 million. Food is listed at $212 million. Consumer textiles is listed at $183 million. Supplements is listed at $54 million. Other consumer products is listed at $23 million.

  6. Kentucky has so far approved more than 50,000 acres (20,234 hectares) of hemp production for 2019, more than triple the approved acreage in 2018, as well as more than 6 million square feet of greenhouse space. The number of approved hemp grower applicants in Kentucky surpassed 1,000, growing by 500% in 2018. 110 hemp processor/handler license applications have been approved for 2019 with more expected.

  7. Illinois officials have said they plan to have industrial hemp rules finished by June 1, just in time to start growing the hemp crop.

  8. Montana Farmers Union lobbyist Chris Christiaens said Montana farmers planted 22,000 acres of hemp last year while projecting 75,000 acres grown in 2019.

  9. A Massachusetts bill aims to add hemp to the state’s definition of horticultural use allowing farmers to grow hemp on land with an agricultural preservation restriction.

  10. North Carolina officials predicted that 100 North Carolina counties will soon be growing hemp, with the number of growers expected to surpass 700, up from about 500 in 2018. As of March 7, North Carolina reported 634 growers licensed to raise hemp on 7,922 acres and in nearly 3.5 million square feet of greenhouse space. The number of processors grew from 44 in early 2018 to 393 by the end of February 2019. North Carolina Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler said his department will seek changes in state law to help boost the hemp industry.

  11. Last year, in anticipation of the Federal Farm Bill, Deleware’s General Assembly passed SB 266 clearing the way for commercial growing of hemp. However, the regulations limit commercial production, until the fall of 2019 until the USDA sets its rules.

  12. Pennsylvania's Agriculture Department announced that the department is officially processing hemp cultivation applications.

[Pennsylvania senators propose legislation to end pot prohibition]

  1. Connecticut lawmakers on the Environment Committee approved two bills that would authorize a pilot program for the growing, cultivation, production, and processing of hemp in Connecticut. To date, about 200 of the state’s more than 6,000 farmers have expressed an interest in growing hemp.

  2. In Ohio, Senate Bill 57 was introduced, which allows for industrial hemp cultivation, possession, shipping, and sales (including CBD oils or CBD-infused products) outside of the state’s licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

  3. In Montana, Senate Bill 176 and 177 were both passed in the Senate. The bills allow the Montana Department of Agriculture to create a hemp certification program plan, and to eliminate the criminal background check requirement growing hemp. Under a pilot program, the state had about 2,500 acres of hemp growing. That is expected to expand to more than 22,000 acres if fully legalized.

  4. The Montana Department of Agriculture set up a committee to help producers research and market hemp. The nine-person Montana Hemp Advisory Committee represents large and small-scale hemp producers from across the state and is set to hold its inaugural meeting April 3.

  5. Alabama has approved 180 hemp farming applications. The first crop will be planted by April. The state also received about 70 applications for hemp processing operations.

  6. In Oregon, House Bill 2740 would create an Industrial Hemp Commission. A planned amendment to HB 2740 would also authorize hemp to be tested under food safety protocols that are less expensive than those for marijuana.

  7. Oregon hemp sales are expected to eventually surpass $1 billion, leapfrogging the state’s cattle industry. So far this year, 35,000 acres have been licensed, up from only 12,000 acres last year.

  8. In Texas, where hemp and CBD are only legal for medical purposes, Senate Bill 116 has been introduced to allow Texas farmers to grow hemp.

  9. Nearly identical hemp bills have passed the Washington state Senate and House both by unanimous vote. The measures reduce restrictions on where hemp can be grown, where seeds can be obtained, and how harvested plants can be used. Both bills direct the state Department of Agriculture to adopt the new hemp rules as soon as the legislation takes effect.

  10. Bipartisan legislation introduced in Minnesota would allow hemp farmers to sell their product to in-state medical cannabis manufacturers.

  11. In Iowa, a House Agriculture subcommittee signed off on legislation creating the Iowa Hemp Act, authorizing the production of hemp under the regulation of Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The Iowa Senate also approved its own hemp bill.


    The Georgia House approved a bill allowing farmers to grow hemp for CBD oils and other products. A separate measure pending in the state House would allow cultivation and sales of medical marijuana oil, which contains up to five percent THC and can be used by registered patients. An image showing uses for hemp is shown. The chart shows uses for hemp in consumer textiles, industrial textiles, paper, building materials, foods, industrial products, and personal hygiene.

  13. In Indiana, Senate Bill 516 overwhelmingly passed out of the Senate and is now headed to the House. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, who previously doubted the state's readiness to regulate the hemp industry, is now in favor of the measure.

  14. The Wyoming Department of Agriculture is beginning the process of regulating industrial hemp following the passage and signing of HB171/HEA No. 0110. The WDA has 30 days to submit a plan to the United States Department of Agriculture.

  15. A bill has been filed in Nebraska, where hemp CBD is currently illegal, to remove it from the state’s list of controlled substances and to develop a process to help law enforcement officials easily test products for THC content.

  16. New Mexico House of Representatives’ have passed a measure establishing legal industrial hemp production in New Mexico. The bill is now in the hands of the Senate.

  17. The Hemp Business Journal projected that the hemp food market will grow from sales of $124 million in 2018 to $186 million by 2022, while the hemp CBD industry will grow from $390 million in 2018 to one approximately $1.3 billion by 2022.

The Bad

  1. South Dakota lawmakers passed a hemp bill which Gov. Kristi Noem openly opposed and promptly vetoed saying state law enforcement was not ready. While the House overrode the veto, the Senate did not.

  2. The Idaho Sheriffs’ Association announced its opposition to House Bill 122, a bill that would legalize the production of industrial hemp, saying the bill lacks a mechanism for testing agricultural hemp and lacks a method to pay for staff monitoring, testing and lab analysis. Nevertheless, the Idaho House Agricultural Affairs Committee advanced the measure to the House floor for consideration.

  3. The U.S. Postal Service seized a number of CBD extract and hemp shipments. Court rulings so far have favored the companies shipping those products. Also, just recently, the USPS issued an advisory on mailing hemp and CBD which basically says until further notice it’s legal for research purposes only.

The Ugly

  1. In late January Idaho State Police arrested a truck driver under suspicion of marijuana trafficking and confiscated a 6,700-pound shipment of hemp owned by Big Sky Scientific of Aurora, Colo. Tests showed the product to be industrial hemp, however, the state of Idaho does not differentiate between hemp and marijuana. Prosecutors have declined to dismiss the charges, arguing that doing so would “significantly hamper law enforcement’s ability to enforce Idaho state law.” A federal judge has agreed to hear the case.

  2. The North Carolina agriculture department sent a letter to about 400 processors and retailers in the state warning them not to sell food or animal feed containing CBD and threatening seizure of the products. California officials also warned against the use of CBD as a food additive, upsetting the world’s largest CBD market. More recently, officials in New York City came down on cafes which were selling CBD-infused beverages and baked goods. Maine officials made a similar move. A shop in California closed suddenly last week after the San Francisco Department of Public Health told operators they could no longer sell CBD edibles.

[CBD crackdown continues as infused edibles banned in Maine, New York City]

  1. Shortly after President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, the Food and Drug Administration released a statement saying that it remains “unlawful . . . to introduce food containing added CBD or THC into interstate commerce.” The statement stressed that the FDA would continue to take action against businesses that make health claims related to CBD products or that attempt to introduce such products into interstate commerce (although only action taken in the past has been to send threatening letters).

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