Despite the current lack of federal guidance and incomplete rulemaking, several states including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia are swiftly moving forward with state plans for the regulated production of hemp as authorized by the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the “2018 Farm Bill”). The 2018 Farm Bill provided that states desiring to have regulatory authority over the production of hemp within their state may devise and submit a plan to the Secretary of the USDA for approval. The latest state in the arena is Wyoming.
On March 6, 2019, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signed House Bill 0171 into law, providing for the licensed production of hemp and hemp products, and further requiring the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to submit the state’s plan for the regulation of hemp to the USDA within 30 days of signing the Bill. The short deadline means we will likely see another state submit its plan to the USDA very soon, but the USDA’s approval of these plans will not necessarily come any faster, as the USDA has stated that it will hold these plans on hold until more regulations have been promulgated. A recent statement from the USDA indicated that the USDA will not likely issue regulations until the fall of 2019. This means that for the 2019 planting season, states must continue operating under the prior 2014 Farm Bill.
As with many new programs, the 2018 Farm Bill and corresponding state legislation presents many ambiguities and open questions. For example, the USDA has yet to address questions regarding the distinction between the definitions of “industrial hemp” and “hemp” and how the USDA anticipates the potential of regulating and differentiating between the two in addition to how interstate protections will be applied. The USDA will host a Farm Bill listening session on industrial hemp on March 13, 2019, where the public is invited to submit questions and comments about the hemp production program. More info about the webinar can be found here. Greenspoon Marder will be participating and providing public comment. Should you have any questions regarding how your business may be affected, we encourage you to reach out to a Greenspoon Marder attorney.