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Frequently Asked Questions

The following information is provided as a guide and is not a legal interpretation of the Act.

Q: What is hemp?

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.

Q: What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

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.

Q: Why is Pennsylvania allowing growth of hemp now?

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.

Q: What has changed for 2020?

A:  Changes for the 2020 program include:

  • Processors of hemp must also apply for a permit.
  • Every property (growing or processing) will require a permit and a separate application.
  • The cost of a permit is $150.
  • New restrictions for properties include:
    1. Outdoor growers must plant and maintain a minimum of ¼ acre and 300 plants.
    2. Indoor growers must plant and maintain a minimum of 2,000 square feet and 200 plants.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
  • For property not owned by the business or permit holder, a copy of a fully executed lease, signed by the property owner and the permit holder, must be provided to the Department.
  • For business applicants, key participants in the business are required to have FBI background checks. 
    • Key Participants - 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, or persons at executive levels in a corporate entity (I.e. chief executive officer, chief operating officer and chief financial officer).
  • FBI Background checks must be completed within 60 days of the date of application submission.
  • Hemp varieties to be planted this year must be listed on the application.
  • The Department has compiled a list of Prohibited Varieties and Varieties of Concern, which are varieties that have tested out of compliance or have led to crop destruction in previous years.  Prohibited varieties may not be planted in 2020.
  • Every variety field or lot (contiguous planting of one variety) planted must be tested for THC within 15 days of harvest by a certified sampler, which will be paid for by the permittee.
  • Hemp permit information and crop acreage must be reported to USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) by the permittee.

Q: What is the difference between Pennsylvania's hemp program and the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program?

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.

Q: What are some of the uses of hemp?

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.

Q: Who can legally grow hemp in Pennsylvania?

A: Hemp may be grown or cultivated in Pennsylvania by individuals with a valid permit from the PA Department of Agriculture. Businesses or individuals who own or lease property may apply for a permit.

Q: Has hemp been planted in Pennsylvania?

A: During the 2019 season, 324 permit holders planted and grew approximately 4,000 acres of hemp. This was the third year that hemp was grown in the commonwealth after having been banned for approximately 80 years. PDA will be accepting additional applications for the 2020 growing season.

Q: How can I apply to grow hemp in Pennsylvania?

A: Interested persons or businesses should carefully review Pennsylvania's Hemp General Permit and fill out the 2020 Pennsylvania Hemp Permit Application. It is also strongly advised to review the 2020 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, 2020.

Q: Will there be fees for the participants of the project?

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.

Q: Do I need an FBI background check to apply?

A: Yes, 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 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.

Q: How many hemp permits will be issued in 2020?

A: There is no limit to the number of permits, or the amount of hemp that will be permitted for the 2020 growing season. Any application that meets all requirements of the program will be approved.

Q: How many acres will be approved for each project?

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.

Q: I had a hemp permit in 2019.  Do I need to apply for a permit again in 2020?

A: Yes.  Because of substantial changes to the hemp program, all persons who want to grow or process hemp in 2020 must submit a new application. Permits expire on December 31st of each year; however, because the 2020 application form was delayed until after January 4, 2020, 2019 permit holders were issued a permit extension through February 2020. If there were multiple properties listed for your 2019 permit, a separate application will be required for each of those properties this year.

Q: Are hemp processors required to be licensed in PA?

A: New to the Program for 2020, processors of hemp will need to have a hemp permit from the PA Department of Agriculture. They will be required to fill out the same 2020 Pennsylvania Hemp Permit Application. Additionally, producers of hemp food products would need to be registered as a Food Establishment with PDA's Bureau of Food Safety. Sale of hemp seed or plants for planting also require seed distributor and plant merchant licenses, respectively.

Q: How can a participant obtain hemp seed?

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. The Department does encourage growers to consult the 2020 Varieties of Concern and Prohibited Varieties Listing at agriculture.pa.gov/hemp and to search for certified seed, if available.

Q: Can I sell the hemp from my project? Outside of the commonwealth?

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.   

Q: What products/uses of hemp will be permitted in PA?

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.

Q: Can Hemp be sold/commercially distributed as animal feed?

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 American Association of 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. 

Q: What about cannabinoids, like CBD?

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.

Q: What happens if the hemp grown tests higher than the 0.3% permitted for THC content?

A: By definition, the plants are no longer considered hemp. Crop destruction could 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.

Q: Can seed grown be saved and replanted?

A:  To save seed for replanting, growers would need to obtain written permission from the seed source. In addition, the seed must be grown in conditions that meet the requirements of the Pennsylvania Seed Act and the Seed Certification Program.

Q: Can I grow transplants/cuttings for resale?

A:  Growers would need to obtain written permission for replication from the plant variety source and would also need to receive a Nursery Certificate.

Q: What does Hemp need to grow?

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.

Q: If approved to receive a hemp permit, what are my responsibilities?

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% compliance level.