Connecticut recently became the latest state to authorize the production of hemp, as Governor Lamont signed a bill which will enable the growth of the state’s industrial hemp industry. The law authorizes the state’s Department of Agriculture to implement a hemp research pilot program and allows for commercial hemp farming in the state. State officials hope that the new bill will provide a boost to the state’s agricultural industry and rural economies which rely heavily on farming.
As part of this pilot program, the state’s Department of Agriculture will be tasked with drafting and submitting a state plan to the United States Secretary of Agriculture for licensing, growing and processing hemp. Growers and processors of hemp will have to provide research plans to the state until the pilot program ends and Connecticut’s Hemp State Plan receives final federal approval, which is expected in 2020. The state’s Department of Agriculture is also tasked with crafting guidelines for tracking and inspecting farm land on which hemp is grown.
The passage of this bill comes just months after President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 at the end of last year, which legalized hemp at the federal level and removed hemp’s designation as a controlled substance. Because hemp is a form of cannabis, it was designated as a controlled substance like marijuana for decades. In light of the Agriculture Improvement Act, hemp is now classified as an agricultural product that can be freely marketed, provided that the THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) content, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants, is not more than 0.3% on a dry matter basis.
Connecticut’s new law requires hemp growers, processors and manufacturers to obtain licenses from the state prior to growing hemp and licensees must comply with various requirements. First, any potential growers need to submit an application to grow hemp to the state’s Department of Agriculture and the application must be approved by the state. Once approved, individuals may only grow hemp using certified seeds. Per the new bill, certified seed means hemp seed for which a certificate or any other instrument has been issued by an agency authorized under the laws of a state, territory or possession of the United States to officially certify hemp seed and that has standards and procedures approved by the United States Secretary of Agriculture to assure the genetic purity and identity of the hemp seed certified. The department will accept varieties that have been approved by state Departments of Agriculture for use in their hemp growing programs.
Growers must also provide GPS coordinates and the identity of all plots and/or buildings where hemp is grown and stored. Each location where hemp is grown will be given an ID and this ID will be used to track the hemp from where it is grown to where it is introduced into commerce. Additionally, state Department of Agriculture agents and law enforcement officials may enter onto any property where hemp is being grown or produced for the purpose of inspection, collecting samples or when conducting an investigation.
Prior to harvesting hemp, growers must complete mandatory sampling and testing of the crop to ensure the THC content is below 0.3%. Growers, at their own expense, must submit a sample of the crop to a laboratory with ISO 17025 certification for testing and analysis no more than fifteen days before the intended harvest date. It is advised that growers and producers frequently test their crops throughout the growing process to ensure that it is not over the allowable 0.3% THC limit, as any crops over this limit are subject to voluntary or ordered destruction at the licensee’s expense. Licensees must also comply with record keeping and reporting requirements by maintaining planting reports, THC testing reports, harvest reports and destruction reports.
Hemp farming is a rapidly growing industry due to the many uses the plant offers. Hemp is capable of producing significant quantities of paper, textiles, building materials, food, medicine, paint, detergent, varnish, oil, ink, and fuel. It is also the source for CBD (cannabidiol) that is being widely marketed or a variety of uses including pain relief. The hemp industry will continue to grow exponentially as more states pass legislation which allows for commercial hemp farming.