The House Committee on Agriculture held a committee hearing on the proposed hemp cultivation bill (House Bill 213) on Wednesday morning to consider proposed changes to the initiative to allow farmers in Georgia to grow hemp.
Chairman Tom McCall, in discussing the proposed regulations, told members of the committee said the dangers of hemp currently are that “you don’t know what you’re getting because it’s not a Georgia product.” He also said hemp cannot be grown or produced like “corn or soybeans because federal law defines the definition of hemp.”
The discussion was turned over to the bill’s sponsor, John Corbett, who told committee members that the proposed changes came at the request of the Agriculture subcommittee, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the universities in the state. Among the additions to the bill after it passed out of committee unanimously:
- The definition of university activity now includes fields and greenhouses
- The language permits hemp and “hemp varieties” for growth and experimentation
- A regulation was added to require the seed processor to reimburse a farmer 50% of the costs if a grower has to destroy a crop because the THC level is too high.
- Corbett said this was to “protect the farmers”
- This provision sunsets after 3 years
- Growers and processors will be subject to criminal background checks
- The grower license is now $1,000, which did not exist in the initial bill. The processor permit remains at $100,000
- Removes the 2-year renewal for permits and licenses and says it must be done annually
- Allows universities to “breed and develop” varieties of hemp, instead of just basic hemp (meaning they can cross-pollinate so long as the THC level remains at the correct point)
- If a random test concludes that the THC level is above 0.3%, the grower is responsible for destruction of the fields under the supervision of local law enforcement
- Limits the destruction to the specific fields that test over the limit, not the entire crop of the grower
One state representative asked if a clarification could be added to the bill for the process of removing THC from a product during processing, which is used in CBD oil, but Corbett said they just needed to move forward because of where they are in the session. “That’s a question for another time,” he told the committee.
Hemp is not marijuana. Both hemp and marijuana come from the ‘cannabis’ family of plants, but the two are separate species. Marijuana features broad leaves, dense buds and has a short, bushy appearance. Hemp features skinny leaves that are concentrated towards the top of the plant and grows taller and skinnier than Marijuana, with few branches beneath its upper portion. Additionally, Hemp contains a very low concentration of THC (0.3% or less), Marijuana is abundant in THC with concentrations between 15% to 40%.
The bill passed out of committee unanimously and now heads to the Rules Committee. The bill remains among the most restrictive programs in the nation.
These changes will be available for review on the House website on Thursday, February 21 at 12:01 a.m.
You can read more about the initial proposal here.