Hemp farming in Georgia could begin in spring after rules approved

Hemp farming in Georgia is one step closer to becoming a reality now that federal rules have been approved.

Farmers could begin growing hemp as soon as this spring if state regulations are finalized by then, according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Georgia farmers have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to plant hemp, which is used to make CBD oil, since the General Assembly voted to allow it last spring.

CBD oil, a treatment for pain, anxiety and insomnia, is a popular product already sold in stores across Georgia. But so far, CBD oil has been imported from other states, and Georgia farmers haven't been able to participate in the growing industry.

Hemp is being grown legally in a field at the University of Georgia’s Durham Horticulture Farm in Watkinsville, Ga., on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. With the Hemp Farming Act signed earlier this year the university is researching how to grow hemp in Georgia’s climate and whether it will be viable for farmers. (Photo/Austin Steele for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Hemp and marijuana both come from the cannabis plant, but hemp varieties contain little or no THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high. Hemp crops can contain no more than 0.3% THC.

Federal hemp farming rules published last week establish requirements for licensing, testing and disposal of plants that exceed THC limits. Congress authorized a national hemp-growing program when it passed the Farm Bill last year.

Now, the Georgia Department of Agriculture plans to submit a state hemp growing plan by the end of the year that complies with federal rules, said spokeswoman Julie McPeake. The U.S. Department of Agriculture intends to authorize state plans within 60 days after they’re submitted, she said.

"Once approved, Georgia will move swiftly to propose a final state rule" that could be finalized soon after a 30-day public comment period, McPeake said.

Under Georgia's proposed hemp rules, hemp growing licenses will cost $50 per acre, up to a $5,000 maximum. Farmers could only sell hemp to state-licensed processing companies, which would then manufacture it into CBD for retail sale. All licensees would have to undergo inspection of their hemp crops, and if any sample exceeds the THC limit, the entire crop would be destroyed.

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