The passing of the 2018 Farming Bill ushered in a new era of hemp farming potential in the United States. However, farmers’ abilities to tap into that potential continues to rely on state-level legislation.
The states where it’s legal to grow hemp in 2019 far outnumber the ones that have not passed legislation to allow residents to tap into the booming cash crop.
In fact, only three states currently allow no form of hemp farming: Idaho, South Dakota, and Mississippi. The rest of the United States allows for the cultivation of hemp via commercial, research, or pilot programs.
Also worth noting: the difference between being allowed to grow hemp for research or as part of a pilot program is vastly different from the relatively wide-open doors to farmers who can grow it commercially.
Many states that were not on the ball with regards to industrial hemp farming are quickly trying to catch up with expansions to their industrial hemp research pilot programs. For many farmers looking to expand more slowly into hemp farming, such pilot programs offer the ideal stepping stone.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of the states where it’s legal to grow hemp in 2019:
Growing Hemp in Arizona
Arizona has been quick to move forward with creating a healthy regulatory environment for farmers looking for crops more profitable than cotton.
State lawmakers made it legal for industrial hemp farming and processing in the Grand Canyon State on May 31, 2018. As part of the process, agriculture officials established a licensing and certification program.
Though legal, some farmers are still hesitant about the inherent risk of growing hemp for CBD oil. Unlike states where systems are already running smoothly, Arizona is still developing rules to govern the industry. Among those regulations are what to do with crops with THC levels in excess of 0.3 percent.
“There’s so many ways it might go,” said Brian McGrew, hemp program manager for the Arizona Department of Agriculture. “Complete destruction of the crop, as some states have done, if it tests over. It’s all going to be based on what resources are available for the grower and the state, and what technologies might exist”.
Growing Hemp in California
As of 2019, California opened its doors to the commercial cultivation of industrial hemp. Unlike most states, which require farmers to register at the state level, California is doing things differently.
Farmers in The Golden State have to register with the agricultural commissioner in the county they want to grow in. By allowing agricultural commissioners for California’s 58 counties to process hemp registration, the state is effectively creating an awkward patchwork of rules as each commissioner comes up with their own interpretation of the state law. There are about 30 counties with some sort of additional restrictions with regards to industrial hemp production.
Growing Hemp in Georgia
Georgia joined the industrial hemp growing states when the Georgia Hemp Farming Act was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp on May 10, 2019. The act authorizes the research, production, processing, and regulation of industrial hemp in the state.
As in nearly all states, growers in Georgia will need to pass criminal background checks and disclose the GPS coordinates of grow sites, among other requirements, to receive a hemp license from the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
Growing Hemp in Indiana
Indiana was one of several states to open its doors to industrial hemp farming following a long, cautious look at the crop. Purdue University planted about 24 acres of the crop following the 2014 Farm Bill, which included a provision that allowed certain institutions to grow the crop for research.
Last year, an attempt to legalize hemp faltered as Gov. Eric Holcomb questioned whether or not the state was ready to regulate the crop. This year, Holcomb jumped on board, saying that he was “supportive of efforts to establish a hemp program”.
Growing Hemp in Kentucky
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is continuing to conduct its Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program with lofty goals for the state’s participants.
“My strategic objective is to position the Commonwealth’s growers and processors to ultimately prevail as national leaders in industrial hemp production,” said Kentucky Commissioner Ryan Quarles.
The Kentucky program has seen incredible growth over the last few years. The first year of the program — 2014 — only 33 acres were planted. Four years later, farmers planted 6,700 acres, of which about 6,000 acres were harvested.
Anyone wanting to participate in the industry legally needs to apply for a license to grow, handle, process, or market hemp.
Growing Hemp in Colorado
Industrial hemp farmers growing in Colorado are in excellent shape, especially as they are among the few that will be eligible for insurance approved by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Whole-Farm Revenue Protection program.
In 2018, a total of 21,578 acres of hemp were grown in the state. Expectations — especially with the largest hemp processing plant in the US opening in the state — are that this number will continue to increase year-over-year.
Growing Hemp in South Carolina
In March 2019, South Carolina expanded the number of growers who are able to participate in the state’s hemp program. Additionally, the newly-signed law increased the amount of acreage they can grow.
“I’m excited additional farmers will be given an opportunity to grow hemp in 2019, and I greatly appreciate Governor McMaster’s support of this bill, as we continually seek to grow South Carolina’s largest industry,” said South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers.
The hemp program, administered by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, previously only allowed for 40 permits for up to 40 acres each to be issued.
Growing Hemp in Maine
Hemp might not be the main event in Maine, but it’s certainly caught a lot of farmers’ attention now that it is legal to commercially grow.
In 2016, there were only three applications and two grower agreements in the state. That jumped to 35 applicants and 32 agreements the following year. Last year, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry managed 104 applications and 61 agreements.
However, this year, one farmer is doing something very different — pick-your-own hemp.
“We think most will make into their own tincture or salve plus there is a growing trend of just freezing a[nd] using fresh in food or tea to get CBD-A,” explains Taryn Marcus, who runs the operation with her husband.
Growing Hemp in Nevada
The minimal number of industrial hemp growing restrictions in Nevada makes it another healthy state for hemp farmers to dig in. Approved applicants can produce as much hemp as they want to as long as the area is zoned for the production of this crop.
Growing Hemp in Tennessee
Tennessee has a very robust system already in place for hemp farmers. In 2019, Tennessee licensed more than 2,900 hemp growers.
“Farmers have been growing and researching this crop in Tennessee since the program began in 2015 as a pilot program,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher said. “The hemp industry and federal laws have changed in recent years, and we’re updating our program rules to be more consistent with how other crop programs are managed.”
Recent changes in rules for hemp farming in Tennessee were pushed forward in 2019 to better cater to hemp farmers. These include a year-round licensing process for growers and processors no longer being required to register with the department of agriculture.
Growing Hemp in Virginia
Big things happened in Virginia in 2019 for hemp farmers; amendments to hemp law in the state eliminated the requirement that hemp only be grown for research purposes, permitting the commercial production of the crop.
As of July 2019, more than 800 growers had registered to be licensed in the state.
Growing Hemp in Vermont
Vermont is putting out some relatively big numbers in terms of farmers getting involved in the hemp industry.
In 2019, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets approved 1,000 hemp growers and processors — twice as may as the previous year. The vast majority — 820 — of those getting involved are doing so as growers.
The state also saw a 137 percent growth in the amount of land being allocated for hemp production. In 2019, 7,800 acres in the state had been tagged for hemp.
The states hemp program rules are currently under public comment.
Growing Hemp in Minnesota
Minnesota is pushing ahead with its industrial hemp pilot program through 2019 in order to “allow for uninterrupted production and processing of industrial hemp in Minnesota while the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) develops its processes.”
What the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is referring to when it speaks about USDA developing its processes is exactly what a number of states are holding their breath for before taking the plunge into the industrial hemp market. Such states are hoping to receive more clear guidelines to ensure that any permanent hemp growing program they submit to the USDA will be approved without any issues. Once a program is received, the USDA has 60 days to approve or reject a plan.
Growing Hemp in Montana
Hemp licenses are being issued in Montana in two stages. First, there is a conditional grower license, which is issued to eligible applicants so they may purchase seeds and plant hemp. The other license is a production certificate, which will be issued after a farmer has planted their crops and passed all requirements.
The Ministry of Hemp named Montana the number one state to grow hemp in the US following the rapid expansion of the crop in Big Sky Country since 2017.
Growing Hemp in North Dakota
Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has the right idea when it comes to paving the way for industrial hemp in the state.
“If people want this, we’ll grow it,” Goehring said.
Hemp was first permitted to be grown in 2017 under the state’s industrial hemp pilot program. This year, the Peace Garden State licensed 64 growers who were planning on planting 4,000 acres of the cash crop.
Like Minnesota, North Dakota is continuing to operate under its industrial hemp pilot program until USDA finalizes regulations. This particular pilot program requires farmers to explain what research they are planning to conduct with the crop.
Growing Hemp in Oregon
Oregon continues to have a strong hemp farming industry. Even prior to the 2018 Farm Bill, the state’s hemp production program allowed any farmer or business to apply to get involved with the crop.
As of March 19, 2019, there were 751 growers set to work 22,435 acres in the state. However, many more were expected to join, according to Gary McAninch, the program manager for industrial hemp at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
The bottom line is that Oregon is on track for another record growth year for hemp.
Growing Hemp in West Virginia
West Virginia feels like it’s ahead of the game when it comes to tapping into the potential of industrial hemp. Though the state might not be on the cutting edge of developing the product, legislation and support are making a difference in the state.
“We are still in a holding pattern until more federal guidelines are released this fall, but at least we know West Virginia is ahead of the game on this emerging industry. We will update our law to respond to any changes in policy or regulation from our federal partners once more information is released,” Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt said.
The 2019 season saw the West Virginia Department of Agriculture issue 158 licenses under its industrial hemp program. In total, the licensees expected to plant 2,531 acres in the state.
Final Thoughts: The States Where it’s Legal to Grow Hemp in 2019
It’s a long list when you’re looking at the states it’s legal to grow hemp in 2019 — especially since only three states in the entire country didn’t make the cut.
That said, the restrictions placed by agricultural departments at the state level can severely impact the opportunities for hemp growers.
The 2018 Farming Bill paved the way for farmers to cash in on this incredible crop. However, it’s necessary to research the laws in your state before you get your hopes up. In addition to looking at the current regulations — with so many legislatures reviewing laws regarding industrial hemp growing — you’ll want to keep an eye on what’s potentially coming down the pipeline as well.
The key will be to get yourself situated in a state where it’s legal to grow hemp in 2019, and then get your hands on the right seeds and clones to ensure you have the highest quality crop come harvest time.