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A: Hemp is a versatile plant that has been used for thousands of years as a source of fiber and food. While grown commercially in the United States until after World War II, hemp became regulated along with marijuana and its cultivation was prohibited.
A: Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is cultivated because of its production of the psychoactive plant chemical delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Hemp is cultivated for fiber, seed and floral extracts, and federal and state law requires that the concentration of THC must be less than 0.3% in hemp.
A: Through the 2018 Farm Bill, the federal government has changed the legal status of hemp. It has been removed from regulation under the federal Controlled Substance Act, ending any restrictions on import or interstate movement of hemp seed, plants, or products. However, the 2018 Farm Bill still requires that every site where hemp is grown be registered with the state or federal government under a program with requirements for inspection and testing. The PA Hemp General Permit explains the permitting process and requirements for hemp permitting in Pennsylvania. It can be found on the PDA hemp program webpage: http://agriculture.pa.gov/hemp.
A: If USDA makes changes to Hemp Producer requirements when it publishes its final rule sometime in the early part of 2021, PDA expects to edit the PA Hemp General Permit to reflect those changes.
A: Changes for the 2021 program include:
- Modification of minimum planting requirements:
- Outdoor growers must plant a minimum of 150 plants. (Previously required to plant ¼ acres and 300 plants.)
- Indoor growers must plant a minimum of 1,000 square feet and 100 plants. (Previously required to plant 2,000 square feet and 200 plants.)
- If a hemp lot falls below the 0.3% Total THC compliance level, the hemp crop can be moved once the compliant Certificate of Analysis is received from the laboratory. A separate letter of clearance from PDA will not be issued.
A: There are some restrictions in place limiting where hemp may be grown, cultivated, propagated, planted or processed.
- Hemp may not be grown, cultivated, propagated, planted or processed in or within 200 feet of any structure used for residential purposes, without prior written approval from the Department. See 2021 Application Instructions, page 8 for further instructions.
- Hemp may not be grown, planted, cultivated or propagated within 1,000 feet of a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school property or a public recreational area, without prior written approval from the Department.
- Hemp may not be planted within 3 miles of a Department of Health Medical Marijuana Grower-Processor. See the PDA hemp program webpage (http://agriculture.pa.gov/hemp) for the links to the Grower-Processor links, found at the bottom of the page.
A: The two programs are separate and authorized by different Acts and Departments. Hemp contains virtually no THC (less than 0.3%); hemp growers and processors must have a permit from the PA Department of Agriculture.
The Medical Marijuana Act, administered by the PA Department of Health, requires all the cannabis for medical use to be grown at a permitted growing/processing facility and the products to be tested before being sold in order to meet specific requirements for purity and standardized chemical concentrations. Both hemp and marijuana plants do contain levels of other compounds of interest, such as cannabinoids like CBD.
A: There are thousands of uses for hemp. Some of those include: fibrous stem products (paper products, molded plastics, textiles, construction materials, etc.); seed products (food products for human consumption, culinary oil, body care products, fuel, etc.) and floral/foliar products (CBD extracts). Part of the development of a hemp industry is to determine what the most appropriate uses are for Pennsylvania in terms of growth, production and processing of hemp.
A: Two years of research projects showed that good soil fertility - with adequate nitrogen, proper planting depth, and pre-plant weed control - is important for a good crop. Growers also need to evaluate available harvesting options, because many combines are not designed for use with this crop, which is well known for its strong fiber and stalks.
A: During the 2020 season, over 500 growers applied for growing permits. This was the fourth year that hemp was grown in the commonwealth after having been banned for approximately 80 years. PDA will be accepting new growing permit applications and permit renewals for the 2021 growing season beginning on December 5th.
A: Interested persons or businesses should carefully review Pennsylvania's Hemp General Permit and fill out the 2021 Pennsylvania Hemp Permit Application (PDF). It is also strongly advised to review the 2021 Application Instructions and the Checklist for Application and Permit Responsibilities, both available at agriculture.pa.gov/hemp. The deadline for application submission is April 1, 2021.
A: Yes. PDA has established a permit application fee. Additionally, the permittee is responsible for paying fees from other agencies associated with hemp permit requirements, such as FBI criminal history background checks, official sampling, THC testing, and cost of crop destruction if found out-of-compliance.
A: Yes, new applicants need to get an FBI background check by submitting their fingerprints to the IdentoGO service (Service Code: 1KG8NN; Service Name: Hemp Grower) within 60 days of the date of submitting their hemp permit application, by visiting https://uenroll.identogo.com or by calling 844-321-2101. If the new applicant is a business, rather than an individual, then all Key Participants in the business will also need a background check. Key Participants are a person or persons who have a direct or indirect financial interest in the entity producing or processing hemp, such as an owner or partner in a partnership. A key participant also includes persons in a corporate entity at executive levels including chief executive officer, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. Renewing 2020 permit holders do not need a new background check as the 2020 background checks are good for 3 years for permit holders and returning key participants. (Any new key participants on renewing permits would need a background check within 60 days of the application.)
A: A permittee does not need to own the property where they would grow or process hemp, but the property does need to be "completely controlled by the applicant or permitted grower" [PA Hemp General Permit, Article II, Section (b)(2)(iii)(F)]. That means that the applicant or permittee must have a property lease for any property which is not owned by them. A property lease agreement (i.e. rental contract) with the property owner may include, but not be limited to: naming of landlord and tenant, description of property, terms of lease, rent amount and signatures of landlord and tenant. [Consulting an attorney could be beneficial when entering or developing a lease.] The property lease agreement shall be made part of and kept in the applicant's records. The applicant shall provide the Department access to the records for review or copying or both, upon request.
A: There is no limit to the number of permits or the amount of hemp that will be permitted for the 2021 growing season. Any application that meets all requirements of the program will be approved.
A: There is no limit to the size of plantings covered under a permit, however each deeded property will require a permit of its own.
A: Hemp growing and processing permit holders are listed on the interactive PA Hemp Map, available on the Hemp Program webpage. This shows the distribution of 2020 hemp permits throughout the commonwealth by County and by Zip Code. This will be updated with 2021 permit holder information in Spring of 2021. Phone numbers, email addresses and website links will be available on the map for permit holders who have opted to share this contact information.
Another potentially helpful mapping resource available to hemp permit holders is FieldWatch®, a voluntary online program which allows specialty crop growers to share their locations. This program allows pesticide applicators to search for what sensitive specialty crops (and bee colonies) could potentially be impacted by their pesticide applications. For further information on the FieldWatch® program or to register, visit https://fieldwatch.com/
A: Yes. The 2020 permit holders will need to renew their permits for 2021. The permits expire on December 31st of each year; however, because the release of the 2021 application/renewal form is delayed, 2020 permit holders were issued a permit extension through February 2021. If renewing permit holders wish to grow or process at new locations, they must submit property information for those locations and be issued additional permit numbers.
A: Since 2020, processors of hemp need to have a hemp permit from the PA Department of Agriculture. They are required to fill out the 2021 Pennsylvania Hemp Permit Application (PDF). Some examples of hemp processing include: drying, bucking or trimming hemp plants; heating, husking or milling seed, decorticating or chipping stalks, etc. No permit is required for secondary or tertiary processors that do not receive any potentially viable hemp material (i.e. adding CBD extract to lotions or salves, adding milled hemp flour to food products, etc.).
A: There is not a state level permit/license requirement in Pennsylvania specifically for wholesaling, retailing or brokering hemp and hemp products. It is recommended, however, that those selling hemp read the PA Hemp General Permit, specifically Article VI. Transportation and VII. Warehousing and Storing, so that they are aware of what information/documentation PDA requires permit holders to keep with hemp lots.
There are however some licensing requirements for specific products which may apply to hemp sellers: producers of hemp food products would need to be registered as a Food Establishment with PDA's Bureau of Food Safety, sellers of hemp seed would need a PA seed dealer license and sellers of hemp plants for planting would need a PA plant merchant license.
A: Hemp seed may be obtained from other countries, from other states, or from Pennsylvania seed dealers. The grower is responsible for obtaining seed; the Department is not involved in that process. All companies selling hemp seed into the Commonwealth must have a PA seed dealer license. The Department recommends growers search for certified seed, if available, and consult the 2020 Varieties of Concern and Prohibited Varieties Listing at agriculture.pa.gov/hemp to avoid purchasing prohibited or high-risk seed.
A: Yes, products produced from hemp grown in Pennsylvania may be sold in Pennsylvania or interstate, as long as the receiving state has no prohibitions on the sale. All products or substances distributed or sold must meet all state and federal laws and regulations that are applicable to the commodity.
A: Hemp products are regulated by several different federal and state mandates, which can be confusing. It is the responsibility of the permit holder to ensure any products or substances derived from hemp meet the requirements of all state and federal laws and regulations.
A. Not at this time. Before any ingredient can be sold or distributed as part of animal feed, the ingredient must be Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by FDA and/or listed as a "recognized feed ingredient" by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). As part of the approval process, testing is currently being conducted to ensure the safety and nutritional value of hemp. Growers are advised that any research project that involves feeding hemp products to their own animals may result in regulatory restrictions in the sale of products (meat, milk, eggs, etc.) from these animals.
A: Cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), are a group of chemicals concentrated in the female flower of the cannabis plant. While they are chemically similar to THC, they do not have the psychoactive effects of THC. PDA does permit growth of hemp for the purpose of producing CBD. However, it will be the permit holder's responsibility to ensure that any CBD extraction or the production of CBD-containing substances complies with all laws and regulations.
To further clarify, visit the FDA's website entitled "FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD)": https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd
A: By definition, the plants are no longer considered hemp. Crop destruction will result. The Department will not consider hemp producers as committing a negligent violation if they produce plants exceeding the acceptable hemp THC level, if they use reasonable efforts to grow hemp and the plant does not have a THC concentration of more than 0.5 percent on a dry weight basis. If it is determined that high THC levels were produced intentionally or maliciously, growers may face criminal penalties.
A: To save seed for replanting, the seed must be grown in conditions that meet the requirements of the Pennsylvania Seed Act and the Seed Certification Program. In addition, growers would need to obtain written permission from the seed source. More information can be found on the Seed Certification Program.
A: Growers would need to obtain written permission for replication from the plant variety source and would also need to receive a PDA plant merchant license.
A: Persons or institutions receiving permits to grow hemp must follow the requirements outlined in Pennsylvania's Hemp General Permit. These are also highlighted in the Checklist for Application & Permit Responsibilities. This includes payment of fees, submission of required reports, cooperation with onsite inspections, and destruction of hemp found to be above the 0.3% THC compliance level.