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Changes in Maryland’s hemp growing program are on the horizon - the Maryland Department of Agriculture recently announced proposed regulations to establish a licensing program for agricultural hemp production. This post will provide background on the current hemp farming legal framework and provide an overview of the proposed Maryland hemp farming regulations, which are scheduled to become effective on November 1, 2020. This post was created with research and writing assistance from the Russell Brinsfield summer interns, Harry Huntley (University of Maryland, College of Ag and Natural Resources, 2020) and Elizabeth Johnson (University of Maryland Francis K. Carey School of Law, 2022).
Current Hemp Program
Hemp is a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis. Hemp can be grown for seed, fiber, or cannabidiol (CBD). Growing hemp was legalized in a limited fashion in the 2014 Farm Bill and was more broadly legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill. The removal of hemp from the list of federally controlled substances allows the crop to be grown as an agricultural product, sold, and receive crop insurance. In 2018, the State of Maryland passed a bill that established a pilot program for growing hemp. Because of its status as a “pilot” program, industrial hemp growers in Maryland had to be partnered with a research institution or the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). For a more in-depth review of past hemp regulation in Maryland check out this past post.
Proposed Hemp Program
The new hemp farming program, administered by the MDA, differs from the current regime in a few important respects. According to the proposed regulations, farmers will no longer need to be partnered with a research institution or the MDA to grow hemp. Farmers, including farmers currently growing hemp, however, will need to apply annually with the MDA for a license to grow hemp. There will also be a new fee schedule, including the annual application fee ($50), an annual license fee ($500 per site), a Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) testing fee ($250), and, if necessary, site modification fee ($250). Growers will be obligated to keep records and submit the following reports to MDA throughout the season: a planting report, a pre-harvest report, a post-harvest report, if applicable, a destruction report, and an annual production report. Growers may also have other federal recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Hemp, as defined by the proposed regulations, cannot contain a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC) concentration (marijuana’s primary psychoactive chemical) in excess of .3% on a dry weight basis.
Anyone interested in reading the proposed regulations can find the published regulations in the Maryland Register (page 681). If you desire to provide comments on the proposed regulations, you can submit a comment to MDA through August 5, 2020. Comments may be submitted via phone call or email using the process outlined in the proposed rule, to Jim Drew, Program Manager, Turf and Seed Section, Maryland Department of Agriculture by calling (410) 841-5962 or emailing jim.drews.@maryland.gov.
For more information about hemp production, contact Dr. Andrew Ristvey, University of Maryland Extension, Senior Agent, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Nicole Fiorellino, University of Maryland, Assistant Professor & Extension Agronomy Specialist, at email@example.com.