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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 Pennsylvania’s industrial hemp program and the Pennsylvania 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 thousands of 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 2019, 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 2018 season, 33 permit holders planted and grew approximately 580 acres of industrial hemp. This was the second year that hemp was grown in the commonwealth after having been banned for approximately 80 years. PDA will be accepting additional applications for the 2019 growing season. 

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 2019 Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program permit application (PDF). The deadline for application submission is December 17, 2018.

Q: Will there be fees for the participants of the project? 
A: Yes. No funds have been allocated to PDA to support these 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 2019?
A: A maximum of 60 projects will be permitted for the 2019 growing season. This number will include any 2018 permits seeking renewal. 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 2018.  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 2018. 

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) and from a Pennsylvania grower selling certified hemp seed grown under PDA’s research program in 2018. 

The Department will not be involved or participate in any seed orders to be obtained from other states, including ordering, shipping, or approving such seed procurement. Seed sourced from another state shall be the sole responsibility of the person sourcing and/or procuring and shipping the seed and such person shall bear all legal liability and responsibility for such procurement and shipment.

The permit holder must be aware that until the federal government reclassifies Industrial hemp, it is still considered a Schedule 1 Drug. The Drug Enforcement Agency(DEA) has jurisdiction covering imports and interstate movement.  By current federal law and DEA regulations, industrial hemp seed is restricted from interstate shipment. 

Regarding international seed importation, PDA has been granted a general DEA import registration. 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 International 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 current 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.  PDA does 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.

To further clarify, the following responses are to questions listed on FDA’s website:

13. Is it legal, in interstate commerce, to sell a food to which THC or CBD has been added?

A. No.  Under section 301(ll) of the Federal Food Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act or the Act), it is prohibited to introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce any food (including any animal food or feed) to which has been added a substance which is an active ingredient in a drug product that has been approved under 21 U.S.C. § 355 (section 505 of the Act) or a drug for which substantial clinical investigations have been instituted and for which the existence of such investigations has been made public.  There are exceptions, including when the drug was marketed in food before the drug was approved or before the substantial clinical investigations involving the drug had been instituted or, in the case of animal feed, that the drug is a new animal drug approved for use in feed and used according to the approved labeling.  However, based on available evidence, FDA has concluded that none of these is the case for THC or CBD.  FDA has therefore concluded that it is a prohibited act to introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce any food (including any animal food or feed) to which THC or CBD has been added.  FDA is not aware of any evidence that would call into question these conclusions.  Interested parties may present the agency with any evidence that they think has bearing on this issue.  Our continuing review of information that has been submitted thus far has not called our conclusions into question.

15. Will FDA take enforcement action regarding THC and CBD products that are marketed as dietary supplements? What about foods to which THC and CBD has been added?

A. When a product is in violation of the FD&C Act, FDA considers many factors in deciding whether or not to initiate an enforcement action.  Those factors include, among other things, agency resources and the threat to the public health.  FDA also may consult with its federal and state partners in making decisions about whether to initiate a federal enforcement action.

Additionally, in follow-up to a question asked by PDA regarding action FDA may take on CBD products in the marketplace that make medical claims, FDA’s response was:

When a product is in violation of the FD&C Act, FDA considers many factors in deciding whether to initiate an enforcement action. Those factors include, among other things, Agency resources, the nature of the violation, and the threat to the public health. FDA also may consult with its federal and state partners in making decisions about whether to initiate a federal enforcement action.  If the Agency decides to pursue such an action, the range of enforcement activities available to ensure compliance with the FD&C Act includes – but is not limited to – issuing a letter notifying the individual or firm of a violation and requesting correction; seizing the violative product; pursuing an injunction against the firm; and criminal prosecution of the individual or firm.

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 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 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 for certification. 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 two previous 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: 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 PDA website. More specific details are spelled out in the 2019 Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program parameters (PDF). If you would like to register to receive emails regarding the PA Industrial Hemp Industry, send your request to the Industrial Hemp Program team at


Sarah Pickel

IPM Education Specialist

Updated 11.14.18