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The 2018 federal farm bill removed hemp from the United States Schedule I controlled substances list, opening up a new and expanding industry across the country.
“It’s important when we’re talking about hemp to state that it is not marijuana. Hemp is not associated with high THC levels like marijuana is,” Tristan Hujer, Phillips Lytle Special Counsel, said.
Historically, the crop has had many uses from clothing and textiles to animal feed. But Hujer, who works with hemp growers in Upstate New York, said the real emerging market is cannabidiol or CBD.
“The market for hemp, specifically for CBD, has been booming over the last several years. Nationwide we are expecting CBD sales to reach around $2 billion within about two years,” he said.
Despite the new federal rules, many states are still in the process of addressing their own hemp laws. Hujer said New York actually got ahead of the curve when it instituted a research pilot program in 2015. But a new law, signed by the governor earlier this month, will open the industry to many more farmers.
“What we expect is that any individual, any business that wants to do business in the state, should be able to at least make an attempt to do so by applying for the appropriate licenses with the state,” Hujer said.
He said the Food and Drug Administration is still making rules about CBD and the state’s law generally follows the FDA’s lead to ensure products are safe.
“One of which is it creates labeling standards and one of those standards will be that labels won’t be able to make claims regarding the CBD that’s in that package, that it has the ability to for example cure disease or has any other beneficial health effects,” Hujer said.
It also requires CBD manufactured in New York contain hemp exclusively grown in the state.
“That is great for business, for New York state business, but the other thing is it makes it easier to ensure that safe farming practices are being followed and that safe manufacturing practices are being followed,” Hujer said.
He said the state is still finalizing some rules. In the meantime, he is preparing his clients to file applications as soon as the licensing process opens.
“There are going to be some additional developments on the state level with respect to licenses probably in January or thereafter so we’ll learn a little bit more at that point in time so I’m just going to be staying tuned just like many other people for that,” he said.