As CBD oil from industrial hemp is legal, and sellers can ship their goods to most American states, we are regularly asked: “Is it illegal to grow CBD plants?” The first thing to note is that you need to grow hemp plants because a CBD plant technically doesn’t exist. Cannabidiol, the most abundant non-intoxicating compound in marijuana, is also available in vast quantities in the hemp plant.
Therefore, the purpose of this article is to help explain whether you can legally grow hemp plants in the United States. The issue of whether CBD oil is legal in all 50 states is a rather complex one. As a consequence, one would assume it is the same story when it comes to growing hemp.
The truth is, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the growing of industrial hemp throughout the United States on a federal level, but only commercially, and in certain circumstances. As is the case with CBD oil production and sale, local and state laws differ. In this scenario, it is a question of enforcement. In this guide, we focus on telling you the truth about the legal status of hemp and offer a few quick tips on the best growing practices.
The Farm Bill 2018 & What It Means
December 20, 2018, was a historic date for hemp lovers. On that day, President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill, which made full-scale industrial hemp legalization official. The provisions in the program transform farming opportunities from small state pilot programs to a nationwide scale. The Bill also removes hemp from the list of controlled substances and deems it an agricultural product.
It is an expansion upon the provisions of the 2014 version of the bill (the Agriculture Act). That particular piece of legislation “created a framework for the legal cultivation by states of ‘industrial hemp’” without a DEA permit. The result was the successful growing of hemp plants across the nation, albeit on a limited scale.
Alternatively, you can cultivate high-CBD marijuana in a state with a medical cannabis program if you have a valid MMJ card, and are also allowed to grow the herb. Otherwise, you are only permitted to grow industrial hemp if you need CBD.
So, Can I Grow Hemp at Home?
Unfortunately, there is more than a little confusion. As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is no longer a Schedule I controlled substance if it has a THC level of 0.3% or less. Fortunately, you’ll find that naturally-grown hemp contains a low enough amount of THC to ensure its legality.
If you are a farmer looking to grow hemp commercially, you can apply for a license from your state department of agriculture. Alas, the law doesn’t contain provisions for residential growth. Therefore, if you live in a state where you are not allowed to grow marijuana at home, you can’t grow hemp either. If you live in a state such as Colorado that permits recreational users to cultivate cannabis, you can grow hemp, but it counts towards your marijuana plant allowance.
It Isn’t Easy for Farmers Either!
Hemp production is increasing rapidly in states where it is allowed. In Tennessee, for example, farmers produced 200 acres in 2017 and 3,338 acres in 2018! In Montana, only 542 acres of hemp were grown in 2017. That figure skyrocketed to 22,000 acres in the following year, before the passing of the Farm Bill! Overall U.S. hemp production hemp was over 78,000 acres in 2018, more than triple the 2017 amount.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy for farmers to grow industrial hemp as you might think. There is a process to go through in states that have implemented hemp cultivation and processing. In Ohio, for example, the application ‘window’ is open from November 1 to March 31 annually. You must submit detailed information, and the state’s Department of Agriculture conducts a thorough background check on each candidate.
At least the application fee of $100 is affordable, as is the annual license fee of $500. In Ohio, you may also pay fees for site modification and testing, which should not exceed $300. Ohio only released its proposed statewide regulations in October 2019 and doesn’t expect to implement the rules until January 2020 at the earliest.
It is a similar situation throughout the country. The 2018 Farm Bill requires every industrial hemp site to register with the state or federal government under a program that has inspection and testing requirements.
In Kentucky, for example, you must sign a memorandum of understanding with the state’s Department of Agriculture (KDA). In it, you consent to allow the agency to enter the site and carry out inspections. The state is permitted to decertify or deregister any site. Also, producers must inform the Department of any discussions relating to the sale of hemp products.
Which States Have Legal Hemp Farming?
In the map above, you can see that not every state has fully legalized hemp farming. It is from September 2019 and doesn’t include New Hampshire, which technically allows the commercial growth of hemp. HB 459 made the provision but stated that growers, processors, or traders need USDA licensing. At that time, the USDA had not made an announcement, but that has changed recently.
The three states with no program at present are Idaho, South Dakota, and Mississippi. The latter is likely to allow hemp growth by next year. In several of the states which will enable hemp growth, quite a few are not yet implemented. In Nebraska, for instance, the state Department of Agriculture said that it is looking forward to the USDA providing federal guidelines to ensure the success of a full program from 2020 onward.
Finally! Change Is in the Air!
In late October 2019, officials from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the agency’s plans to finalize a rule to allow farmers to grow hemp legally. As you have already read, farmers in numerous states have waited for almost a year for this news. The interim rule will enable widespread hemp cultivation in the U.S.
The USDA posted formal guidelines for how hemp is grown, harvested, tested, processed, transported, and sold. It also established the United States Domestic Hemp Production Program to regulate the marijuana plant. The new program says that Native American tribes and states must submit any hemp production plans that meet or exceed the department’s guidelines. If a state or tribe doesn’t present a proposal, federal guidelines apply.
According to Anita Sabine, an attorney who represents weed, hemp, and CBD firms in Los Angeles, the new guidelines will reduce the cost of operation and compliance for farmers and hemp companies. One exciting part of the USDA plans stipulate that states can’t prohibit the interstate transport of hemp. In many ways, the new standards help address a few loose ends from the 2018 Farm Bill. Read more on the Federal Register website.
How Can I Grow High-CBD Plants If I Don’t Have a Permit?
Whether you are a farmer in a state where there is no existing hemp program, or else you want to grow at home, your options are limited. It is against the law to grow hemp plants residentially if you don’t live in a state where you are permitted. Residents of states such as Colorado, Oregon, California, and Washington are in luck on all counts.
These states produce lots of seeds or clones that enable you to grow CBD-rich plants. Recreational marijuana is also legal in all four states, so even if you can’t grow at home, finding high-CBD strains in a local dispensary is relatively easy. There are also many places selling industrial hemp plants, giving you a legal source of CBD.
Assuming that you are not a farmer, your best option is to grow genetically bred strains at home, if it is legal to do so. For the record, high-CBD strains include:
Otherwise, you can buy CBD oil online. There is an enormous number of sellers, and we cover many of the most reputable brands in our review section.
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation over whether or not you can purchase CBD oil in all 50 states. Technically, residents of Idaho, South Dakota, and Nebraska risk breaking the law (other states also have muddled rules). In reality, a tiny fraction of people get into trouble, and thousands of CBD companies freely ship their products across the country without incurring the wrath of state authorities.
It is best if you research your state’s laws on CBD oil, and see if anyone has ever got into trouble for buying or selling the cannabinoid. Incidentally, please share any stories about legal issues and CBD that you have heard about in the comments!
What About Hemp Seeds… Aren’t They High in CBD?
Perhaps you have noticed hemp seeds for sale at a local store. As they come from the hemp plant, you may believe they contain a large amount of CBD. After all, industrial hemp has a relatively high percentage. However, the hemp seeds you see on sale legally are nutritional products in the United States.
These are sterilized seeds, which means you are in for a disappointment if you try to plant them; they don’t produce any plants! Besides, it is the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant that contain CBD. There is a negligible amount of cannabidiol in hemp seeds.
Quick Tips on Growing Hemp
If you want to grow hemp to extract CBD oil from it, be prepared for an expensive process. You can try to perform a cheap extraction, but established brands such as PureKana and Premium Jane will blow you out of the water. These companies have invested heavily in equipment and utilize supercritical CO2 extraction to get full-spectrum products. They also spend a considerable amount of money to pay for third-party lab testing.
The above is unlikely to be an issue for farmers who are only interested in growing and selling the crop. The hemp plant is potentially productive on marginal cropland, but you get far better results with fertile land, as expected. It is a summer crop like sorghum or corn. As a result, hemp grows best in a temperate climate and prefers well-drained soil, cool nights and warm days.
Make sure you don’t skimp on water and nutrients. Be especially wary during the first six weeks of growth as hemp is susceptible to drought during that time frame. However, some farmers suffer due to high temperatures and drought in the late summer when the plants are almost mature. Typically, you can harvest hemp plants after 16 weeks. Here are a few fast tips for optimal hemp production:
- Keep the soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
- Use well-drained loam soil.
- Make sure you use more than 30 ppm Bray-1 P.
- Keep the level of exchangeable Potassium above 150 ppm.
- Don’t allow soil compaction, high clay content, or soil crusting.
Final Thoughts on Whether or Not It’s Illegal to Grow CBD Plants
If you live in a state where you are legally allowed to grow marijuana plants at home, you have no worries when cultivating hemp plants. In this case, remember that the same rules apply. If state law says, you must keep your weed hidden from view, the same goes for hemp plants. Also, growing hemp counts toward your cultivation ‘allowance.’ In these states, if you don’t want to grow the plant, you have easy access to the best-quality genetic CBD strains available.
Otherwise, you can only grow hemp on a commercial basis with a permit from your state’s department of agriculture. Even in this scenario, there are plenty of obstacles, with many state departments failing to implement clear instructions. Now that the USDA has finally issued guidelines, expect a more transparent picture during the next year or so.
WayofLeaf is not responsible for any illegal activity, and you should not use any of the information in this article for such a purpose.