Hemp and cannabis are considered cousins in the agricultural world, and that relationship has been harmful to hemp, the relative that cannot get you high (at least not without a lot of effort.) In reality, the THC in hemp must stay below .03%, making it a really ineffective recreational drug. The U.S. government has greatly restricted both hemp growth for decades, but now, with the passage of the 2018 farm bill, hemp is poised to become a major crop once more.
Marijuana growers also have much to celebrate with the loosening of restrictions in many states. Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level, however, so growers have to be extremely cautious before producing a crop. All of these restrictions can be confusing to those who want to legally grow hemp and/or cannabis. Before you invest in a crop, you need to do careful research into your state’s laws.
Hemp is now a legal crop on both the federal and state level. To many, that may sound as if anyone can grow hemp if they wish. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. Hemp is still regulated and the law requires that you get a license from your state before you make it part of your crop rotation. The cost and restrictions of the license will vary according to where you reside. As with tobacco, farmers cannot just decide to grow it for sale but must follow state guidelines.
The federal law also did not make it legal to grow hemp for personal use. Experts speculate that those with a license to grow cannabis at home could substitute hemp plants, but the number allowed would be so small that there is little practical reason to do so.
Hemp Growing Conditions
Hemp is an especially easy crop to grow and does well in most parts of the United States. The only areas not conducive to a strong hemp crop are high mountain and desert areas. This plant grows fast and thick, muscling out weeds. Hemp requires less water, pesticides and fertilizer than corn. It is an environmentally friendly crop that does best in warm climates and well-drained soil. The seedlings do need irrigation for their first six weeks if conditions are dry. Overall, growing hemp is easier for the farmer and better for the environment than many other crops.
The profit potential is still not clear since large-scale hemp farming has largely been squashed since the 1930s. The next few years should tell the tale in that area. Hemp is used to produce CBD oil which experts believe has a number of health benefits, including pain relief. Tens of thousands of other products can be made with hemp, so the demand is certainly there.
Cannabis is still illegal under federal law. You can only grow it under certain conditions in a number of states. The bureaucracy governing its growth is far more complex than that for hemp, particularly since hemp has now been made legal under the 2018 farm bill. Plus, the rules for residential cultivation are far different than for those raising it at an industrial level. However, the cannabis industry is exploding and is proving highly profitable for many.
Residential growers in states where it is legal are allowed to cultivate a few plants. For instance, California allows residents to grow up to six plants per year.
Cannabis Growth Conditions
Industrial cultivation of cannabis can be done both indoors and outdoors, and some farmers are already deeply invested in the production of this crop. Successfully growing marijuana requires dedication and skill in order to produce the different strands desired by consumers. Some agricultural leaders are looking to shift more of their production outdoors, which will “explode” yields and make the enterprise more profitable, even with the current red-tape nightmare involved. Experts note that water usage may be one of the bigger challenges, depending on where the field is located. Growing cannabis is a more delicate process than growing hemp since honing the psychotropic effects are a main goal of production. Hemp is used to produce goods and CBD oil while cannabis is used to produce a recreational high and to deliver certain medical benefits such as pain relief and anti-nausea effects.
Depending on your state of residence, you may be able to openly grow marijuana for your personal use and as a cash crop. These efforts are not legal on the federal level, but currently, the US government’s policy is to defer to state law and not seek enforcement of the federal law. Following the law means keeping current with your state’s regulations, which should be spelled out on your state’s official government website.
Hemp is legal to grow in the United States, but you will need a permit to grow it. Fees and regulations vary by state, but once you are licensed, you can begin raising hemp in the next growing season. You may not simply buy seed or seedlings and put them in the ground without filing the proper paperwork, however.
Hemp may soon become a major crop for U.S. farmers. In some states, cannabis is already a profitable crop endeavor. Once the federal government legalizes cannabis, which seems inevitable at some point, you can expect to see it as a row crop in many parts of the country.
Cannabis Sales, Processing, and Distribution
The sale, processing, and distribution of cannabis are heavily regulated in States that it’s allowed. Some Cities in legal states may ban cannabis business actives all together or may only allow the sale of cannabis but not the cultivation (or vice versa). Before entering the cannabis industry, its important to become familiarized with your State and local cannabis business requirements, including the allowed (and banned) activities, licensing, and property requirements.
So, How Do You Know if You Can Use Your Property for Cannabis or Hemp Use?
- Check State Laws: Just because hemp is legal on a Federal level doesn’t mean that your State allows hemp business activities, check with your State government for requirement. As for cannabis, if you are in a State that allows cannabis business activities, check with the State regulator for requirements for operating a cannabis business. Generally, you want to find out the following:
- Licensee Requirements—Some State have restrictions on who can apply to operate or own a cannabis business.
- Allowed Activities—Some States have restrictions on business actives such as: Outdoor cultivation, brokering cannabis, cannabis transportation across county lines, production of cannabis infused candies and more.
- Licensing Requirements and Fees—Find out all the requirements to apply for a license, over all process, timeframes and of course, the FEES.
- Check Local (City & County) Requirements—Local governments may also develop their own rules on cannabis and hemp business activities and have their own licensing requirements that you may need to meet in ADDITION to the States requirements. The best place to start would be the local Economic & Development department/ office (wherever they issue business licenses or building permits). Find out:
- Allowed Activities;
- License Requirements; and
- Property Requirements/Restrictions—Each business activity will generally have specific property requirements, such as zoning, required setbacks (required number feet away from schools, churches, and residential dwellings, etc.), and security requirements. Some cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco have developed specific areas specifically for cannabis, commonly referred to as “Green Zones”
These are just some requirements, those interested in entering the cannabis & hemp industry are urged to do their due diligence beforehand.