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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 industrial hemp?

A: Industrial 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, industrial hemp became regulated along with marijuana and its cultivation was prohibited.

Q: What is the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana?

A: Industrial 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 Industrial hemp is cultivated for fiber, seed and other purposes, and federal and state law requires that the concentration of THC must be less than 0.3% in industrial hemp.

Q: Why is Pennsylvania allowing growth of industrial hemp now?

A: In section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill), the federal government opened the door to limited legal growth of industrial hemp as part of agricultural research pilot programs. The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed an Industrial Hemp research law, (3 Pa.C.S.A 701-710) (Act 92) to explore the potential for economic growth that this “new” crop could bring to the commonwealth.

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

A:  The two programs are separate and authorized by different Acts and Departments. Industrial hemp contains virtually no THC (less than 0.3%). Both plants do contain levels of other compounds of interest, for example cannabidiols (CBDs). The Medical Marijuana Act 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. No marketing research may involve the sale or distribution of any CBD-containing substances to a PA-permitted medical marijuana grower/processor or a PA-permitted medical marijuana dispensary.

Q: What are some of the uses of industrial hemp?

A: There are reportedly more than 25,000 uses for industrial hemp. Part of the need for pilot programs is to determine what the most appropriate uses are for Pennsylvania in terms of growth, production and marketing.

Q: Who can legally grow hemp in Pennsylvania?

A: Industrial hemp may be grown or cultivated in Pennsylvania for research conducted under an agricultural pilot program established by PDA.  Research permits can be obtained by institutions of higher education or by persons contracting directly with PDA. In 2018, industrial hemp may not be grown in PA for general commercial activity, only as part of a research project.

Q: Has hemp been planted in Pennsylvania?

A: During the 2017 season, 14 permit holders planted and grew slightly more than 36 acres of Industrial hemp. This was the first planting of hemp in the commonwealth in approximately 80 years. PDA will accept additional applications for the 2018 growing season. PDA has received federal approval to facilitate importation of hemp seeds from other countries for approved research projects.

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

A: Interested researchers should carefully review the parameters for permit approval and fill out the 2018 Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program permit application.  The deadline for application submission is January 19, 2018.

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

A: Yes. No funds have been allocated to PDA to support research projects, so participants will be responsible for funding all research project expenses. PDA has established fees to cover the costs of administering the program, including obtaining a permit, covering onsite research field and facility inspections, sampling and necessary laboratory testing of the crop as required by the permit. Additionally, other agencies may charge fees for their services (FBI criminal history background checks, the cost of other required permits from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Customs & Border Patrol, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture).

Q: Is the application fee refundable?

A:  No.  The law enabling industrial hemp research in Pennsylvania gave the Department of Agriculture the right to establish fees to cover the costs of administering the program.  The use of these “user fees” is restricted to covering the costs incurred by the agency to administer the program.

Q: How many research projects will be approved for 2018?

A: A maximum of 50 projects will be selected for the 2018 growing season. PDA will select the successful projects based on a complete program application and a determination of the merit of the research described.

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

A: Growers who contract directly with PDA to conduct their research projects will be permitted a maximum research plot of 100 acres in size, or smaller plots with a combined area not to exceed 100 acres.  Growers also may contract with an institution of higher education to grow hemp in any amount needed as part of their PDA permitted research project.

Q. I had a permit to conduct research in 2017.  Do I need to renew my permit?

A. Yes.  Last year’s growers will need to complete the renewal application and pay the appropriate fees.  Renewals only apply to the continuation of an existing project from 2017. If the focus of the project is different from the approved 2017 permit, a new application and fees are required.

Q: How can a participant obtain industrial hemp seed?

A: Hemp seed may be obtained from other countries under a DEA import registration and permit. PDA has been granted a general DEA import registration, and an institution of higher education may also qualify and obtain an independent DEA Registration. Persons who have received an Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program Permit from PDA would then work to purchase seed from their seed supplier for import under DEA Permits linked to the PDA import registration. No seeds will be permitted to be purchased or acquired from a PA-permitted medical marijuana grower/processor or a PA-permitted medical marijuana dispensary.

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

A: Products produced from hemp grown in Pennsylvania may be sold as part of approved marketing research. In their permit applications, program participants must describe what will happen to the plants and seeds at harvest.  PDA will issue permits to move plant material or seeds for processing within the commonwealth. Due to federal regulations, raw or unprocessed hemp plants or plant parts are not permitted to move across state lines. Once processed, most materials can move freely within and outside of the commonwealth. 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 industrial hemp will be permitted in PA?

A: Industrial hemp products are regulated by several different federal and state mandates, which can be confusing. It is the responsibility of the research participant to ensure any products or substances derived from industrial hemp research projects meet the requirements of all state and federal laws and regulations. 

Q: Can Industrial 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.  In a change from 2017 pilot program, PDA will permit research on industrial hemp growth, cultivation, and marketing relevant to extraction or production of CBD compounds or substances that contain them.  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, including any distribution to be conducted as part of marketing research.   

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

A: By definition, the plants are no longer industrial hemp.  Crop destruction and possibly criminal sanctions could result.

Q: This program seems very different from what I see happening in other states – why is that?

A: The Pennsylvania General Assembly based the Industrial Hemp Law, Act 92, on what the 2014 Farm Bill permitted, which allows industrial hemp to be grown as part of an agricultural research pilot program. As the regulatory agency charged with enacting this law, PDA is committed to adhering to the guidance of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the federal government. Other states have enacted industrial hemp laws quite different from Pennsylvania’s law. PDA may revise the program parameters in future years to reflect changes in either federal or state laws, statutes, regulatory climate or scientific advances.

Q: Can seed grown be saved and replanted?

A:  To save seed for replanting, growers would need to obtain written permission from the seed company and from PDA. In addition, the seed must be grown in conditions that meet the requirements of the Pennsylvania Seed Act. If PDA approves a grower’s proposal to test the marketability of seed grown in the commonwealth, the resulting industrial hemp seeds would be evaluated based on these requirements and could only be distributed by permit to an approved research project.  

Q: What does Industrial hemp need to grow? 

A: The 2017 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: What information will PDA share about the research projects?

A: Permits to do research under Pennsylvania’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program will specify research reporting requirements. Those research reports will be filed with PDA, and PDA will share summaries of research findings as appropriate.

Q: If approved to receive a research permit, what are my responsibilities to the PDA?

A:  Persons or institutions receiving permits to grow Industrial hemp must follow the requirements of Act 92, as well as terms of the permit/contract issued by PDA.  This includes payment of fees, reporting, documentation of the research with a final report and cooperation with onsite inspections.

Q: How do I get more information?

A: More information on the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program is available on the Industrial Hemp page, where more specific details are spelled out in the 2018 Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program parameters. If you would like to register to receive emails regarding the PA Industrial Hemp Industry. Please contact Sarah Pickel for additional information.


Sarah Pickel

IPM Education Specialist