Hemp Fields of Opportunities

There’s a lot of hype around hemp these days. Hemp products, including CBD, or cannabidiol, seem to be all over the market. Indeed, uses for hemp seem endless. The hemp plant can be used for anything from paper to therapeutic oils to rope and have even been considered for food products. Legislation was previously passed allowing physicians to prescribe CBD to patients with certain diagnoses. Retail sales of CBD and other hemp derivatives in Iowa remain illegal. But big changes to Iowa’s hemp policy are coming soon.

The 2018 federal Farm Bill removed hemp from the list of federally controlled substances and legalized it as an agricultural commodity. The Farm Bill gave states regulatory authority over production of hemp, meaning state laws could still prohibit hemp production, sale, and possession. Before hemp can be grown and sold in a state, a state plan for licensing and regulation must be approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”). Earlier this year, Governor Reynolds signed into law Iowa’s own “Hemp Bill.” Even with the signing of this bill, it is still not legal to grow and sell hemp in Iowa until the state plan has been approved by the USDA. State officials hope the plan will be approved in time for the 2020 growing season. With legalization rapidly approaching, those wishing to enter the hemp market can prepare to do so by understanding the regulations that will apply.

Growing Hemp in Iowa:

  • Before growing hemp, farmers will need to obtain a license from the state and submit to a background check.
  • License fees vary by the size of each crop site.
  • Farmers may grow up to 40 acres of hemp.
  • Plants must have a THC level of .03 percent or less. THC levels above .03 percent will be considered controlled substances and will be destroyed at the grower’s expense.
  • The state must be notified before harvesting so they can officially sample and test the THC level. This testing will cost the farmer $1,000 and supplemental fees may be charged if further testing is requested or required.
  • No registered pesticides are currently approved for application to hemp. This means growers must follow the herbicide label for “other crop” for rotation/plant-back restrictions.
  • Crop insurance for hemp is not currently available.
  • Applications are currently being accepted and issued for seed permits. However, cannabis seeds cannot be legally possessed or distributed in the state until USDA approval of Iowa’s proposed regulatory plan.
  • Transportation of hemp seed and harvested hemp will require a certificate of crop inspection and a bill of lading that includes information required by the state.

Selling Hemp Products in Iowa:

  • Once the state regulations are in effect, hemp products produced in compliance with federal law may be sold in the state, including those containing CBD.
  • The Farm Bill did not grant, and the Food and Drug Administration has not approved, use of hemp or hemp products, including CBD, in food or dietary supplements that are consumed by humans or animals.

If you are interested in growing, processing, or selling hemp and have questions regarding regulatory compliance or business issues, please contact Tess Pocock, Joe Leo or Chris Sackett.