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Growing Hemp in North Carolina may get a bit tricky come October once the state’s hemp farming program expires. The state has seen tremendous hemp cultivation success via a state plan that operates under the 2014 Farm Bill. As such, North Carolina farmers are well-equipped to continue the CBD production trend.

However, uncertainty regarding North Carolina hemp farming regulations is causing some farmers to worry. The state has yet to submit its hemp farming plan to the USDA for approval due to a controversial smokable hemp ban proposal. And with an October deadline quickly approaching, many North Carolina hemp farmers are concerned with the delay.

Hemp Farming Laws in North Carolina

North Carolina currently operates under the 2014 Farm Bill, which allows the state to grow hemp under limited conditions. For example, farmers who wish to grow hemp must be licensed by the state to grow hemp for research purposes only. Research may include both cultivation and marketing and must take place on approved land by approved personnel only.

North Carolina’s Industrial Hemp Commission issues licensing to hemp farmers as part of the state’s hemp pilot program. Some basic NC hemp licensing requirements include proof of farming income, no felony convictions within the last ten years, and no drug-related felonies at all. Grow sites and cultivars also require state registration as does a clear research objective. And, of course, farmers must only grow compliant hemp. Anything with more than .3 percent THC is considered marijuana and, therefore, non-compliant in North Carolina.

North Carolina’s hemp farming pilot program expires in October 2020. Farmers licensed under the current farming program will maintain registration for up to three years thereafter, depending on the specific details of the license. Unfortunately, what these new rules will look like has yet to be seen.

What Happens When North Carolina’s Hemp Farming Plan Expires?

With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, all states and tribes can cultivate hemp for both research and commercial purposes. To do so, they must either abide by the USDA’s hemp cultivation rules or submit their own hemp farming plan for USDA approval.

Unfortunately, the USDA’s hemp cultivation guidelines are considerably restrictive. Concerned hemp farmers suggest the USDA hemp farming guidelines will create more problems for farmers than they are worth. These concerns include unrealistic testing expectations and disposal processes. They also limit farmer protections should crops develop more than .3 percent THC (i.e., “hot crops”). Though the USDA has addressed a few complaints like DEA involvement in hemp farming, strict testing windows, and insufficient farmer protections are still a significant concern.

North Carolina officials will submit a plan for growing hemp in North Carolina, but they only have until October to do so. However, the state continues to delay plan submission because of a controversy surrounding smokable hemp. Whereas some state and law enforcement officials express concern regarding difficulty distinguishing hemp from “marijuana,” others suggest a ban would drop revenue significantly. One store owner explains that smokable hemp accounts for 30 to 40 percent of their total sales – a loss most hemp businesses cannot afford to sustain.

North Carolina’s Hemp Farming Plan Proposal

Last July, North Carolina altered the language in Senate Bill 352 that would classify smokable hemp as marijuana. This, of course, would be detrimental to hemp farmers who would now be growing, harvesting, and curing an illegal product. This vague wording could cause unjust “crack-downs” on hemp farmers throughout the state.

It is unlikely that anything would come of the proposed changes to Senate Bill 352. However, it does buy the state some time to put proper testing procedures in place for law enforcement. This would allow local farmers to grow, process, and distribute smokable hemp legally. Additionally, it will improve hemp transportation through the state.

The Future of Growing Hemp in North Carolina

North Carolina hemp farming isn’t going anywhere. However, the rules by which farmers will be growing hemp in North Carolina are about to change. It is difficult to determine when – or if – the USDA will approve North Carolina’s hemp farming rules. However, one thing is sure: guidelines will be more restrictive and compliance more difficult. Those who wish to grow hemp in the state should have a deep understanding of both the USDA’s hemp farming rules and their state’s proposal.

Are you a North Carolina hemp farmer? We’d love to hear your thoughts about growing hemp in your state.

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