The Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Federal Farm Bill, allowed states to establish research or pilot programs to look at the cultivation, growth or marketing of hemp. States can authorize universities or state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes. The 2014 Farm Bill defines industrial hemp as containing a THC concentration of 0.3 percent or less.
Cannabis plants—including those grown for medical, adult-use and industrial hemp purposes—remain classified as a Schedule I substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which makes it difficult to conduct research for medical use or product development. However, permitting from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is no longer required for researching industrial hemp that is grown within the limits outlined in the Farm Bill.
Multiple federal agencies have a role in regulating cannabis and continue to release rules and guidance related to its cultivation and processing. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the U.S. DEA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, released a Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp on Aug. 12, 2016, to clarify applicable activities allowed in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Interstate transportation and sales are key issues still to be addressed. The federal Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2016 defunded federal agency enforcement activities, including interstate transportation of industrial hemp grown in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill.
Laws in at least 47 states regulate the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp or of cannabis products. State laws typically define industrial hemp as having a concentration of 0.3 percent or less of THC, except for West Virginia’s defined concentration limit of 1 percent or less. States also have defined other terms, such as “hemp extract” and “CBD oil” with concentration specifications for THC and CBD. While these terms are not consistent across states, definitions often allow THC levels of above 0.3 percent and CBD of 15 percent.
Laws in at least 34 states allow hemp to be cultivated under certain conditions. State policymakers have addressed various policy issues, including the definition of hemp, licensure of growers, seed regulation and certification, statewide commissions and legal protection of growers. State research programs include studying growing conditions—soil quality, season length, seed viability—and exploring the crop’s economic and marketing potential.
At least 18 states have enacted laws allowing limited access to cannabis products with low levels of THC and high levels of CBD for medical use. Idaho also passed a bill, which was vetoed by the governor in 2015.
Some state laws clarify the legality of extracts from industrial hemp plants:
State lawmakers continue to respond to interest from their constituents, including farmers, looking for new crops and sources of income, patients looking to try medical cannabis products, and others. In all of these situations, transportation across state borders and access to viable seeds also present issues for those working in the industry. Knowledge of federal and state-specific laws and regulations is essential for those working in this industry.