Industrial Hemp

The following information about the USDA Hemp Production Program and Frequently Asked Questions about USDA NIFA research has been updated since passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.

USDA Hemp Production Program

With passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has been designated as the lead USDA agency to administer the new USDA Hemp Production Program. AMS is in the process of working toward developing regulations to implement the 2018 Farm Bill provisions. It is expected that the final rule will be implemented by the end of calendar year 2019. Until the final rule is implemented, all rules and restrictions must be followed per Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill. In other words, no one should try to implement the 2018 Farm Bill production provisions before the final USDA rule is established. USDA cannot help with interpretation and implementation of the laws related to your state permitting and interstate commerce. For those questions, please seek advice from your legal counsel or state.

The AMS has posted information on their website regarding the 2018 Farm Bill hemp program at: https://www.ams.usda.gov/content/hemp-production-program.

The link to AMS Questions/Answers is found at: https://origin-edit.ams.usda.gov/publications/content/hemp-production-program-questions-and-answers

If you have additional needs regarding the Hemp Production Program, please send questions or requests for information to: farmbill.hemp@usda.gov.

Industrial Hemp Research 

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) deals with research aspects of industrial hemp. Until the final USDA production rule (2018 Farm Bill provisions) is published by AMS, researchers should do nothing that exceeds the interpretation of the 2014 Farm Bill Section 7606. In other words for now, continue following the guidance received regarding Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Researchers should seek their own legal counsel and guidance from their state regulatory agency regarding what is allowable for conducting research in their respective state. The USDA cannot provide advice regarding state specific policies. Don’t rely upon the 2018 Farm Bill production provisions until the final USDA rule is published.

Frequently Asked Research Questions

Question 1: Do agricultural research pilot programs that conduct experiments involving growing industrial hemp require DEA permitting?

Answer: No, as long as the hemp in question is grown or cultivated under a license, registration, authorization, or production lease with a state pilot program under (or otherwise compliant with) Section 7606. The 2014 Farm Bill legitimized industrial hemp research only if performed pursuant to section 7606. Therefore, industrial hemp legitimately may be grown or cultivated either pursuant to section 7606 or in connection with a DEA permit.

Although the 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the controlled substances list, it also made industrial hemp production unlawful if done without a USDA license issued under a USDA plan or in a state without an USDA approved industrial hemp production plan. Therefore, until plans can be approved and licenses issued under anticipated AMS regulations, growing industrial hemp remains illegal unless done in compliance with section 7606 or with a DEA permit.

Question 2: What do I need to do now (since passage of the 2018 Farm Bill) if I want to legally conduct an experiment that involves growing industrial hemp?

Answer: First, the experiment must still be conducted in a state that has legalized industrial hemp research. Second, the researcher must either (a) be an institution of higher education or state department of agriculture, or (b) grow the industrial hemp under the auspices of a state agricultural pilot program.

Question 3: If I apply for a USDA funded research grant for an industrial hemp experiment, will USDA be permitted to fund my proposal?

Answer: Yes, provided the criteria in Question 2 above are met. Depending on the funding agency, applicants likely will need to certify compliance with the relevant State program and agree to certain terms and conditions as set by the agency. USDA NIFA presently is funding research projects through both our competitive and capacity grant programs. Industrial hemp otherwise is handled as any other agricultural commodity. NIFA is presently funding industrial hemp competitive research projects.

Question 4: Can universities who receive capacity funding from NIFA utilize these dollars to support industrial hemp research?

Answer: Yes. Entities eligible to receive capacity funding from NIFA would not lose their eligibility merely because their research involves growing or cultivating industrial hemp, as long as that research is conducted under a license, registration, authorization, or production lease with a state pilot program under Section 7606, or otherwise represents legal activity within the state. Universities who receive these capacity funds may choose to devote a portion of them to industrial hemp research, consistent with other statutes and regulations governing those funds. NIFA is presently funding industrial hemp capacity research projects.

Question 5: How can I find out what types of industrial hemp activities are legal in my state?

Answer: Consult your organization’s legal counsel and the state agency responsible for the industrial hemp pilot research program in your state. While organizations like the National Conference of State Legislatures maintain websites that summarize State Industrial Hemp Statutes across the country, these websites should not be used to provide advice or assistance to private citizens or organizations regarding industrial hemp laws or other related matters. Please consult your organization’s legal counsel, the USDA cannot provide you advice regarding your state’s specific policies.

Question 6: May producers grow hemp under this program for production of food and pharmaceutical products?

Answer: Section 7606 does not affect the requirements that already exist for the production of food and pharmaceutical products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, such as the approval process for new drug applications. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the circumstances under which industrial hemp may be grown for food and pharmaceutical products remains a question for the FDA, because the hemp production provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill expressly did not affect FDA authorities and regulations.

Question 7: Is there a NIFA program focused exclusively on industrial hemp that I can apply for in FY 2019?

Answer: No. However, certain industrial hemp oriented research proposals may be suitable for some existing NIFA programs.

Question 8: Is it possible for NIFA to support projects focused on post-harvest uses of industrial hemp?

Answer: Yes. In legitimizing industrial hemp research, section 7606 did not make any distinction between pre-harvest and post-harvest industrial hemp. Moreover, the law defines “industrial hemp” to include the plant Cannabis sativa L. “and any part or derivative of such plant ... whether growing or not.” This definition, therefore, covers post-harvest stalks, as well as the fibers and other derivatives of the plant.

Question 9: My state has passed laws that allow the commercial production of industrial hemp and the cultivation of marijuana. As an institution of higher education, what sort of research can I do? 

Answer: You should consult your university’s counsel regarding interpretation of your state laws in regards to research with marijuana. In regards to federal law, institutions of higher education (or state departments of agriculture) can conduct research on industrial hemp as defined by current law under Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill. The term “industrial hemp” includes the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part or derivative of the plant including seeds, whether or not it is used exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed). The tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) concentration is the distinguishing factor between industrial hemp and marijuana. Industrial hemp cannot have a THC concentration more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. The term “THC” includes all isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers of tetrahydrocannabinols.

Question 10: If the laws of my state permit research with marijuana, can NIFA funds support that activity?

Answer: No. Any activity supported by NIFA funds must comply with federal law. Even though you are complying with your state law, you are not in compliance with federal law, so NIFA funds cannot be used for research with marijuana. That research activity with marijuana could subject parties to criminal liability under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Question 11: Can my institution use federal funds to provide one-on-one technical assistance to industrial hemp researchers who are complying with current federal law?

Answer: Yes. You may provide technical assistance to those cultivating industrial hemp under pilot programs associated with Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill, if you are in compliance with current state and federal laws.

Question 12: Can we publish the results of our NIFA-funded industrial hemp research on our website? Can industrial hemp researchers communicate their findings from NIFA-sponsored research through publications or professional conferences? Can we use federal funds to pay publication fees, travel to conferences, or prepare and publish extension bulletins that deal with industrial hemp?

Answer: Yes, if your presentation of research results are targeted to industrial hemp or general audiences, you may use NIFA funds to support communication activities dealing with industrial hemp. Please be sure to properly acknowledge the support you received from NIFA, just as you would for any other research or commodity. See the Web link at: https://nifa.usda.gov/acknowledgment-usda-support-nifa for guidance.

Question 13: What happens if marijuana growers are a part of the general audience, where marijuana and industrial hemp growers might both be present or have access to the information? Can I present my results?

Answer: Yes, if your presentation is based on your industrial hemp research activities and you are directing your presentation to industrial hemp production applications, you may present your results as suited for the general audience.

Question 14: Since industrial hemp and marijuana are both Cannabis sativa, can we use NIFA funds to teach marijuana producers in our state how to better grow their crop? Can we prepare educational materials specifically targeting the marijuana producer community?

Answer: No. Those activities would not be in compliance with federal law since supported staff would be teaching producers how to conduct an illegal Federal activity. That activity could subject your staff to criminal liability under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Question 15: What sort of pesticide or other agricultural chemical recommendations can we make to growers permitted to produce industrial hemp under our state pilot program?

Answer: This is not a NIFA issue. This is a question for your state lead pesticide regulatory agency and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Question 16: With passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, can U.S. Territories use our NIFA funds for industrial hemp research?

Answer: Yes. The 2018 Farm Bill specifies that U.S. Territories can now conduct industrial hemp research so long as they are in compliance with Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 Farm Bill; specifically, first that the experiment is conducted within a territory that has legalized industrial hemp research; and second the researcher must be: (a) an institution of higher education or territorial department of agriculture, or (b) grow the industrial hemp under the auspices of a territorial agricultural pilot program.

Question 17: Can Tribal Nations, particularly the 1994 Land-Grant Colleges and Universities, use NIFA funds for industrial hemp research?

Answer: Yes. Tribal Nations can conduct industrial hemp research so long as they are in compliance with Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 Farm Bill; specifically, first that the experiment is conducted within a boundary of a state that has legalized industrial hemp research; and second the researcher must be: (a) an institution of higher education or state department of agriculture, or (b) grow the industrial hemp under the auspices of a state agricultural pilot program.

Question 18: I have technology or information developed for a different crop other than industrial hemp. This information or technology could be useful to industrial hemp producers or researchers. Can I extend that information or technology to the industrial hemp community using NIFA funds?

Answer. Yes, as long as you are complying with current state and federal laws.

Question 19: My organization is not an institution of higher education. I used NIFA funds for researching or developing a general agricultural technology application that works for any crop. Can I now apply that technology and provide information to industrial hemp researchers or producers?

Answer: Yes. Private industry or non-government organizations may use NIFA funds to disseminate information that may also happen to be helpful to industrial hemp producers. If there is no obvious way to know who’s in the user audience, then there is no objection if marijuana growers happen to be in the audience and your information is not targeted specifically to that community. Please be sure to properly acknowledge the support you received from NIFA, just as you would for any other research or commodity. See the Web link at: https://nifa.usda.gov/acknowledgment-usda-support-nifa for guidance.