Last week, Georgia lawmakers drafted legislation that would allow for the growing of hemp and processing of hemp in Georgia, but the bill has already been met with public pushback due to the heavy regulation, barriers to entry, and high costs to participate in the program.
The 2014 U.S. Farm Bill gave states the authority to establish agricultural research pilot programs, and Pennsylvania did so in 2016. The state expanded the program to include commercial sales after the 2018 farm bill passed and was able to do so without legislation because of the program already in place for industrial hemp. The same is true for Kentucky.
Georgia has neither program in place and has proposed its first initiative in 2019.
Because Pennsylvania and Kentucky had industrial hemp programs in place, the two are also the first states in the nation to put together their commercial growing plans and submit them to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval. So how does Georgia’s proposal match up to theirs, which are already in place and operating?
Regulating who participates
- Pennsylvania does not cap the number of applications for growing hemp.
- Kentucky does not mention a cap and provides a list of at least 57 processors available for growers on the state website. The state doesn’t cap growers, but has an enrollment
period annually for licensing.
- Georgia caps the processors at three across the state.
- The license fee to be a part of the hemp program in Pennsylvania is $600. The state does not regulate or charge processors.
- The processing fee in Kentucky is $500 annually.
- Bidding application to participate in Georgia is $100,000 annually. Money is not refunded if a bid is not awarded.
- Pennsylvania allows hemp to be sold and purchased in the state and across state lines, subject to federal regulation.
- Georgia seeks to require contracts between growers and processors and limits the transfer of goods.
Regulations & Enforcement
- Pennsylvania requires an FBI background check and no felony drug convictions in the last 10 years.
- Kentucky requires a background check.
- Georgia would involve multiple levels of law enforcement for approval.
- Pennsylvania’s hemp program is governed almost exclusively by the state department of agriculture, with oversight from the USDA. Random inspections are done by PA Department of Agriculture. Inspections are limited to ‘normal business hours.’
- Kentucky inspections are conducted by the state department of agriculture. Law enforcement officials do have the ability to inspect the property.
- The Georgia Dept. of Agriculture would have free reign to inspect properties growing hemp. The Georgia proposal requires removal of 4th Amendment protections and allows GBI/other law enforcement inspections at any time.
- Pennsylvania requires seed source disclosure.
- Kentucky requires seed source disclosure.
- Georgia proposes a Georgia Seed Development Commission for regulation and inspection of seeds. The private companies must have 20 years experience.
All three states require submission of exact coordinates of growth, as required by the Farm Bill passed by Congress.
- Pennsylvania prohibits the use of the name, symbols, and logos of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in promotion of hemp products.
- Georgia makes no mention of such regulation in House Bill 213.
- Pennsylvania has ‘corrective plans’ with oversight for violators. Three violations lead to a 5-year suspension.
- Kentucky considers misuse of hemp growing programs under the same penalties of state law as marijuana. They’re also permitted to assess civil penalties of $100-$1,000 per violation and can revoke a license to grow or process.
- Georgia suggests a corrective plan for a probationary period of 2 years, which would include random submissions and updates to the Dept. of Ag.
- Kentucky law codifies permission for colleges and universities to research hemp and grow the crop.
- Georgia’s law codifies permission for colleges and universities to research hemp, but does not explicitly permit growing in the language.
Industrial hemp production as a whole has skyrocketed in recent years. 78,000 acres were grown legally in the US in 2018, up from 26,000 in 2017, and 10,000 in 2016. In 2017, sales totaled more than $820 million.
Contact Georgia lawmakers:
- Read Georgia’s proposal here.
Read the Kentucky overview here. Here’s the link to the annual review of their program. The 50-page plan submitted to the USDA is here.
- Read the Pennsylvania hemp farming fact sheet here. See the application to participate here.