On July 6, 2020, the Maryland Department of Agriculture released the proposed hemp plan, required under the 2018 Farm Bill to allow for more hemp production in the state. The 2014 Farm Bill opened the door to limited hemp production, and several Maryland growers have been participating in the state’s pilot research program for the past two years. With this move towards a hemp production plan, Maryland growers need to pay attention to the changes between the two programs. One of the most significant changes will be the definition of what is considered hemp in the state. While the 2014 Farm Bill focused on hemp containing less than 0.3 percent of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a dry weight basis, the 2018 Farm Bill will look at a total concentration of THC of less than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. These regulations, once finalized, would take effect on November 1, 2020, and the state would move away from the pilot research program regulations.
article is not a substitute for legal advice..
The 2018 Farm
Bill allows for more growers to grow industrial hemp. A farmer looking to add industrial
hemp on fields creates the possibility of conflicts between neighboring
landowners. The neighbors may not understand that industrial hemp is now legal
to grow or other concerns. Industrial hemp is now a legal commodity and growers
would potentially fall under Maryland’s right-to-farm (RTF) law. Industrial
hemp growers would be eligible for the nuisance defense in the RTF law.
I have discussed earlier, the 2018 Farm Bill makes significant changes to the
classification of hemp and allows states to begin to develop regulations for
the legal production of hemp. The 2018
Farm Bill removes hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled
Substances Act and allows for states and tribal governments to begin developing
hemp production plans. Hemp produced
under these plans will potentially be eligible for the federal crop insurance
program. The Maryland General Assembly
during the previous session passed legislation allowing the Maryland Department
of Agriculture (MDA) to develop a hemp production plan for the state. MDA will be able to create this hemp
production plan once USDA releases the guidelines for the state programs.
I recently contributed an article to MarylandBar Bulletin on changes to hemp restrictions in the 2018 Farm Bill and what needs to happen before farmers can grow the crop legally. The Maryland Bar Bulletin recently published the article online.
In 2016, the Maryland General Assembly first passed legislation allowing for the development of an Industrial Hemp Pilot Program in the state. That program was recently updated in 2018 by House Bill (HB) 698 to allow farmers contracting with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) or Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) in Maryland to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. Production of hemp under the program must further either agricultural or academic research. HB 698 became effective on July 1, 2018, MDA has recently issued final regulations to implement this pilot program effective on January 28, 2019, and can be found here.