In Part 1 of our guide to starting a hemp farm in California, we outlined the process for registering as a hemp farmer with the CDFA, as well as the difference between seed breeders and cultivators. This second part of our hemp farm guidance series will provide detail about the importation and movement of industrial hemp; details on manufacturing, processing, and selling industrial hemp; and tips on how to get started in this new market.
Hemp Importation Guidelines from the CDFA
Obviously, the first step in starting a hemp farm (after registering with the CDFA) is to procure hemp seeds. Remember, there are some conflicting laws at the federal level in regards to the legality of growing hemp. It’s not possible to import seeds from outside the US to California, per federal regulation from the USDA. However, California state law does not have any restrictions to the importation of industrial hemp seeds or plants from other states into California.
The CDFA requires all industrial hemp seeds and plants to pass plant pest quarantines, and may inspect your hemp seeds further at their discretion. Likewise, the California Food and Agriculture code requires that registered growers and seed breeders only grow hemp varieties from an approved list of seed cultivars. Of course, this regulation does not apply to seed breeders developing new seed cultivars.
Selling Hemp in California
Where can you sell the hemp you grow on your farm? It’s possible to sell hemp through the California Farmers’ Market (CFM) Program. You must first be certified as producer through the CDFA's CFM Program. You may also be able to sell hemp in a licensed cannabis retail store; however, cannabis retailers are governed by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (not the CDFA). Therefore, you should get in touch with the BCC to be sure you meet the cannabis industry’s strict regulations before adding hemp to a cannabis dispensary.
Starting a Hemp Farm in California
By some estimates, more than 25,000 products can be made from hemp. Hemp is used in everything from the automotive industry to personal care products. California is a leader in the hemp market: California companies earn 77% of nationwide sales of hemp food and personal care products.
Hemp is a plant that thrives in California’s environment. It does well in warm weather, and grows best in well-drained, highly organic soil. Experts recommend planting hemp seeds directly in the ground, rather than starting the plants in a pot and transplanting them later on. You will need a lot of space: for hemp to be profitable, you must plant at least 50 acres. Besides space, hemp has relatively few other needs. It’s resistant to pests and diseases, and grows fast and tall, minimizing the need for hand cultivation. Estimates from a recent Cornell University analysis found that hemp profits ranged from $130 to $730 per acre.
A good way to get started in California’s hemp industry is to go to a workshop by the California Hemp Association to learn about the constantly changing forms, fees, and regulations and other information coming from the CDFA and the USDA.
You should also speak to our experts about the registration process and to get your taxes in order before entering this new market. Click the button below to get started.
The CDFA recently released guidance concerning the industrial hemp market in California.
There has been a lot of confusion surrounding the regulations of this plant.
In this two part series, we’ll break down the state’s policy regarding hemp, as well as give you some insider tips for entering this new market successfully.
What is the difference between hemp and cannabis?
To begin, it’s important to establish the key difference between cannabis and hemp.
Cannabis is a “family of plants with two classifications – Indica and Sativa.” Hemp is a member of the Cannabis Sativa family.
As a result, hemp contains a very low concentration of THC. Marijuana, which is considered a member of either the Indica or Sativa families, has concentrations of THC between 15% - 40%.
The state of California has a very specific definition of what qualifies as hemp vs. cannabis.
According to the CDFA:
“Industrial hemp" means a crop that is limited to types of the plant Cannabis sativa L. having no more than three-tenths of 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops, whether growing or not; the seeds of the plant; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin produced therefrom.”
Why should you start a hemp farm?
Unlike cannabis, which is still classified as a Federal Schedule I Controlled Substance (subject to the 280E regulation), hemp is not federally regulated. The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 went into effect at the beginning of this year, thereby removing hemp from the list of federally controlled substances. This is a new market that isn’t subject to the same strict financial and tax codes of the cannabis market.
Simultaneously, in September, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed and approved Senate Bill 1409 which permits the cultivation of industrial hemp by California growers. Before this bill was signed into law, only growers who qualified under the state’s pilot program and the Agricultural Act of 2014 could cultivate industrial hemp.
The cannabis market is a tightly regulated, highly competitive space. Licensing limits and zoning restrictions make it expensive and difficult for new entrants to gain traction in this billion dollar market. Industrial hemp, however, presents an alternative opportunity for cultivators to participate in the cannabis market without the high barriers to entry.
Commercial Cultivation of Hemp in California
California state law as it relates to hemp cultivation is a little hard to parse. The reason for this is the state regulations don’t align perfectly with the federal regulations that deregulate hemp as a controlled substance.
California may allow for commercial hemp cultivation, but conflicting articles in the 2018 and 2014 Farm Bill do not.
The previous 2014 Farm Bill does not permit the cultivation of hemp for “purely commercial” reasons. However, the 2018 Farm Bill deregulates commercial hemp provided that states submit “hemp production plans” to the USDA.
So, in theory, California’s state plan must be reviewed and approved by the USDA – which would impact hemp cultivators down the road.
In the meantime, California has begun the process of accepting hemp cultivation registration applications – here’s what you must fill out and confirm to begin planting hemp in California.
How to Register as a Hemp Farmer in California
If you wish to become a grower of industrial hemp, the first step is to be approved by your county agricultural commissioner. You can find your county ag commissioner’s office on this map provided by the CDFA.
Unlike the commercial cannabis market, there is no state registration required to grow industrial hemp. Prospective growers only need to complete a county registration to grow industrial hemp. Applications for both seed breeders and growers can be found on the CDFA Industrial Hemp Program website. The registration fee is $900 and registration is valid for one year.
Applications for commercial cultivation and seed breeding don’t vary dramatically. Generally speaking, you will be asked to provide basic information about the business owner, the cultivation site, your business plan, GPS coordinates, and other site information.
Some counties are not accepting hemp applications. These counties include: Amador, Calaveras, Glenn, Humboldt, Lassen, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba.
Hemp Seed Breeders v. Cultivators
There are two potential ways to participate in California’s hemp market: as a hemp seed breeder or as a hemp cultivator.
If you plan to cultivate hemp for commercial purposes, you should fill out the application for growers. If you plan to cultivate industrial hemp for seed development or production, you should complete the application for breeders. If you wish to do both, complete both applications.
In Part 2 of our Guide on How to Start a Hemp Farm in California, we’ll outline more detail about the importation and movement of industrial hemp; details on manufacturing, processing, and selling industrial hemp; and tips on how to establish your hemp business and get started in this market successfully.
To speak to one of our experts with any questions regarding the hemp industry, click the button below to get started.
Updated December 6, 2018
Last September 30, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed and approved Senate Bill 1409 which permits the cultivation of industrial hemp by California growers. Prior to its approval, only growers that qualified in the Pilot Program, and the Agricultural Act of 2014, could cultivate Industrial Hemp.
With SB 1409, starting January 1, 2019, individuals interested to grow industrial hemp are able to do so under the following conditions:
Research and development will be permitted in developing a new cultivar that must be certified by a seed certifying agency. The Department will require research and developers to outline and implement security and anti-diversion measures to prevent the unlawful use of industrial hemp or seed cultivars, as well as procedures for maintenance of records documenting the development of new seed cultivars.
Industrial hemp is used to produce more than 25,000 products. This means that it could be an alternative resource for products we use on a daily basis—that has a smaller impact on the environment.
If you want to know more about industrial hemp, its uses, and how to become a grower in California, contact a team member today!
Recently, California joined the growing list of states that have passed some level of pro-hemp legislation in the past few years. Bill SB 1409 was passed to open the doors to growing the state’s industrial hemp industry. Here’s what you need to know about the legislation – as well as three things to do now to start making money on hemp.
What is the Hemp Bill SB 1409?
California’s Hemp Bill, SB 1409, was signed into law by Governor Brown to go into effect on January 1, 2019. This bill adds an industrial hemp pilot program to the state’s legal cannabis industry. As it stands right now, the cultivation of hemp is regulated because of its classification as a “fiber or oilseed crop” under the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act that can only be grown by approved hemp seed cultivators. The list of approved cultivators hasn’t been added to since January 1, 2013. Every year, growers of industrial hemp register with a county agricultural commissioner and pay a renewal fee.
SB 1409 opens the possibility of becoming an industrial hemp seed cultivator to others who haven’t been certified before January 1, 2013. Industrial hemp is no longer going to be considered a fiber or oilseed crop. This doesn’t necessarily mean CBD food products can be sold; in fact, a recent release from the California Department of Public Health banned the sale of CBD food products. We’re still waiting to see how hemp will be regulated as we approach 2019.
Interestingly, SB 1409 also authorizes the California Department of Food and Agriculture to begin an “agricultural or academic research” pilot program for industrial hemp. Colorado and Oregon have carried out similar programs to help inform and structure their regulatory systems. Hemp remains illegal at the federal level, yet more than 30 states have passed some kind of pro-hemp legislation to date.
How to Make Money on Hemp
Obviously, there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to California’s future regulation of industrial hemp. In addition, seed cultivator applicants won’t be permitted to submit a license request until January 2019. However, here are three things you can do now to get a first slice of California’s legal industrial hemp industry.
Find your niche.
Hemp has a wide range of uses: over 25,000 known uses, to be exact. It can be used in building materials, fabric and textiles, ink, skin lotion, and shoes, and the seeds are a great source of nutrition. If you want to make money off hemp products, the first course of action is to zero in on how you want to use hemp. Hemp-based consumer products, food/nutrition products, and pharmaceuticals are the most common industries, and probably the most accessible for new entrepreneurs. Hemp seeds are very nutritious: they contain a big dose of omega-3 fatty acids and are a better source of good protein than chia seeds or flax seeds. Hemp seeds are also known to contain a good portion of vitamin E and minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc.
Keep in mind that with food product, pharmaceuticals, or beauty products, you may have to comply with FDA or FTC regulations in addition to California state compliance laws. Do your consumer research now to see whether your hemp fortune lies in nutrition or nail polish.
Start creating distribution channels.
Just because you can’t start growing hemp in 2018 doesn’t mean you can’t start creating your own distribution channels. Start to recruit customers for your niche product by building a brand presence online. Pick a topic, make a website, and start promoting or endorsing hemp products that already (legally) exist on the market. Becoming an expert in all things hemp will serve you well both on the customer and supplier side. Customers want someone they can trust to help them navigate the new hemp market. Hemp farmers want help recruiting customers to their product. It’s a win win for you and your suppliers.
Look for land.
If you do intend to become an independent hemp farmer, you will need a lot of space. Though hemp is relatively easy to grow, it’s not easy to be profitable without planting at least 50 acres. Now is the time to start your search for the space you need in January; competition for land will only get tougher as the January 1 deadline approaches.
For more tips on getting started in the cannabis (and soon to be hemp) industry, get in touch with one of our experts.
When it comes to taxes, many hemp businesses are unsure about Internal Revenue Code Section 280-E and whether or not it applies to their businesses. Section 280-E was passed in order to prevent drug dealers from taking business deductions on income from trafficking in controlled substances, like cocaine and marijuana. Here is what you should know about growing hemp versus marijuana and its application to 280-E.
The cultivation of hemp has been considered by the federal government to be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act because hemp is botanically related to marijuana. In addition, hemp also contains low levels of THC, which is the same psychoactive substance found in marijuana. These properties are why the government sought to include hemp by default in the Controlled Substances Act.
The government did make some distinction between hemp and marijuana with the passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, which removed the federal restrictions on growing industrial hemp and permitted any states that have legalized the manufacturing of hemp to set up research programs in order to study the benefits of cultivating hemp.
Since the federal government has failed to create an exception for hemp in the list of Schedule I substances of the Controlled Substances Act, Section 280-E still applies to hemp growers and hemp distribution businesses.
As a result, hemp growers still face the same restrictions on permitted deductions as marijuana growers when it comes to taxation. The full list of deductions that are available to hemp growers can be found here.
In the same way that hemp growers are treated like marijuana growers for taxation purposes, hemp distributors must also follow the same rules as marijuana distributors. The full list of deductions that are available to hemp distributors can be found here.