Governor Newsom Signs Hemp Legislation SB 153

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Vote Hemp, the nation’s leading grassroots hemp advocacy organization, and the California Hemp Council, the leading advocacy group representing the interests of the hemp industry in The Golden State, celebrate the passage of SB 153 in California, which updates California law to take full advantage of the 2018 Farm Bill hemp provisions. Governor Newsom signed the Vote Hemp and California Hemp Council sponsored legislation on Saturday, October 12, 2019, and the law will go into effect January 1, 2020. This significant victory will bring California’s hemp laws up to date with the 2018 Farm Bill and strikes outdated state statute language that conflicted with the expanded definition of hemp that includes extracts, derivatives, and cannabinoids from the non-intoxicating flowers and leaves. To read the full bill, please visit:

“The California hemp industry looks to become a significant force nationally thanks to the passage of SB 153,” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “We are grateful to Senator Scott Wilk for championing this important legislation and to Governor Newsom for signing it into law.”

Eddie Bernacchi, the Director of the California Hemp Council, stated that, “The signing of SB153 is significant as it puts California one step closer to unlocking all of the economic benefits that a robust hemp industry will provide the State.” He added “Next, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will develop a state plan for approval. Implementation of a state plan will finally allow California farmers to fully engage in the hemp industry.”

“SB 153 opens the door for California to take full advantage of the exciting opportunities industrial hemp offers our agricultural and manufacturing sectors,” said Senator Wilk, the bill’s author. “Hemp is used in 25,000 different products so the opportunities are endless, especially for areas like the Antelope Valley which has the perfect climate for hemp production.”

SB 153 requires the California Secretary of the Department of Food and Agriculture, in consultation with the Governor and the Attorney General, to develop and submit a state plan to the United States Secretary of Agriculture, on or before May 1, 2020. The USDA has 60 days to approve or deny that plan which can be resubmitted if changes are required.

In addition, SB 153 revises the current state provisions regulating the cultivation and testing of industrial hemp to conform with the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill also provides that upon approval of its state plan, California will apply new registration and regulatory requirements towards cultivators and consequences for violations.

On December 20, 2018, President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law legalizing state regulated commercial hemp farming. To date, forty-six states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production. These states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

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Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow the hemp commercially. More information about hemp law, legislation and the crop’s many uses may be found at

The California Hemp Council (CHC) represents the statewide interests of the hemp industry in California, including the protection and expansion of in-state cultivation, manufacturing, and use of hemp. The focus of the CHC is to influence legislative and regulatory issues impacting the hemp industry and its related products and to ensure that the industry has a strong, unified voice in Sacramento. More info at

Vote Hemp Releases 2019 U.S. Hemp Grower License Report Documenting Planned Hemp Cultivation In The U.S.

WASHINGTON, DC — Vote Hemp, the nation’s leading grassroots hemp advocacy organization, has released its 2019 U.S. Hemp License Report. The report documents state-by-state progress of hemp legislation passed in 2019, reported licensed acreage of hemp, identifies states with active hemp farming programs and estimates the amount of hemp that will be planted in this critical year following the federal legalization of hemp through the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill. To view the complete 2019 U.S. Hemp License Report, please visit:

“We are seeing hemp cultivation dramatically expand in the U.S. in 2019, with over quadruple the number of acres licensed in hemp compared to last year and the addition of 13 more states with hemp programs,” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “Now that we have lifted federal prohibition on hemp farming, it’s time build the infrastructure and expand hemp cultivation and the market for hemp products across the country so that all can reap the benefits of this versatile and sustainable crop.”

Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp cultivation in the U.S. has grown rapidly. The number of acres of hemp licensed across 34 states totaled 511,442 in 2019—more than quadruple the number of acres licensed from the previous year. State licenses to cultivate hemp were issued to 16,877 farmers and researchers, a 476% increase over 2018. Licensing is a good indicator to show intent but we know from previous years that significantly less hemp is planted than what is licensed due to a variety of factors including access to seed and/or clones, a lack of financing as well as inexperience. This will be the case again for 2019 and Vote Hemp estimates that 230,000 acres of hemp will actually be planted and 50-60% of that will be harvested due crop failure, non-compliant crops and other factors resulting in 115,000-138,000 acres of harvested hemp.

Hemp processors are critical to the growth of the industry and the report also documents dramatic investments and growth in hemp processing facilities. States which license processors reported 2,880 processing licenses, an increase of 483% over 2018. Several key states including Colorado do not license processors so processing capacity is actually significantly higher. The growth in processors is largely for extraction and positions the hemp industry well to meet market demand for extracts but more investment is needed for fiber and grain processing.

The new 2018 Farm Bill, signed into law by the President on December 20, 2018, includes Section 10113 titled “Hemp Production,” which removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, places full federal regulatory authority of hemp with USDA, and allows State departments of agriculture to submit hemp program plans for approval and regulate hemp cultivation per their State specific programs. The USDA is expected to release new federal regulations for hemp cultivation this fall as required by Section 10114 of the Farm Bill and states with approved plans can begin regulating hemp cultivation under the new Farm Bill provisions starting in 2020.

In addition to defining hemp as cannabis that contains no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, the 2018 Farm Bill asserts a ‘whole plant’ definition of hemp, including plant extracts; and removes roadblocks to the rapidly growing hemp industry in the U.S., notably by authorizing and encouraging access to federal research funding for hemp, and removing restrictions on banking, water rights, and other regulatory roadblocks the hemp industry currently faces. The bill also explicitly authorizes crop insurance for hemp. For more details on the specific hemp provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill, please check out Vote Hemp’s blog post, “Hemp in the Farm Bill: What Does It Mean?”

Among the fastest-growing categories in the natural foods industry, hemp seed is a rich source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs), providing both SDA and GLA, highly-digestible protein, and naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E and iron. An excellent source of dietary fiber, hemp seed is also a complete protein—meaning it contains all ten essential amino acids, with no enzyme inhibitors, making it more digestible by the human body. Advancements in hemp research and manufacturing demonstrate the remarkable versatility and product-potential for hemp. Hemp bast fiber has shown promising potential to replace graphene in supercapacitor batteries, which could then be used to power electric cars and handheld electric devices and tools. Hemp fiber can also be used to create environmentally friendly packaging materials, and hard bio-plastics for use in everything from airplanes to car parts. Hemp houses are also on the rise, as hempcrete, which is energy-efficient, non-toxic, resistant to mold, insects and fire, has many advantages to synthetic building materials, lumber and concrete.

To date, forty-six states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production. These states are able to take immediate advantage of the industrial hemp research and pilot program provision, Section 7606 of the Farm Bill: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

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Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow the hemp commercially. More information about hemp law, legislation and the crop’s many uses may be found at

Farewell to most CBD lattes and gummies in Washington state

CBD products no longer legal in Washington stateStore owners will start pulling CBD gummies and drinks off of their shelves in Washington.

The state’s Department of Agriculture has recently clarified that CBD is not allowed as an ingredient in traditional foods. CBD is a derivative of the hemp plant that’s used widely in lotions and supplements, but it does not have the psychoactive effects -the high- of marijuana.

CBD is also not regulated under Washington state law the way marijuana is. The assistant director of food safety at the state’s Department of Agriculture, Steve Fuller, says laws around CBD have been hazy. Now they’re trying to clarify that it’s actually never been legal to sell it as a food ingredient.

“All the vitamin shops and grocery stores and even CBD shops, they’re not allowed to sell food products that contain CBD as an ingredient,” says Fuller. It may surprise the countless store owners who sell CBD infused gummies, soda, or lattes across Washington state.

The enforcement comes after the federal government passed the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp production. It allows for farming of hemp for industrial purposes, but still does not give authorization to use CBD or other cannabinoids as a food ingredient.

“And yeah, fully acknowledging that the cat’s out of the bag and that those products are on the shelves already,” says Fuller. “What we’re hoping to do is let folks know that’s not in compliance with the law and that many of them [are] either removing CBD as an ingredient or discontinuing distribution of the product.”

He says they’re educating people now and do not have plans to raid stores. Fuller says if people want to be able process and sell CBD foods in Washington, that would need to be approved by the legislature or voters, just as recreational marijuana was.

He says while food cannot contain CBD, topical products like lotion still could. And edibles will still be allowed is recreational marijuana stores, where it’s the products are regulated not as food but as marijuana products.

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Oklahoma Farm Service Agency Director Allegedly Blocking Hemp Cultivation

A federal lawsuit filed in Oklahoma suggests that the state’s Farm Service Agency director has been misleading prospective hemp farmers about the legality of the plant.

Equitable Organic Ventures is seeking to contract with about 20 farmers who “desire to cultivate hemp” for the company. EOV is working in conjunction with an unnamed higher education institution in Oklahoma.

Scott Biggs is the executive director of the Oklahoma division of the Farm Service Agency (FSA), and he is being accused of threatening farmers and deterring them from participating in any hemp cultivation program, despite the recent passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and despite Oklahoma enacting an industrial hemp pilot program (under the guidance of the 2014 Farm Bill) last year. The state’s program “allows universities, or subcontractors, to cultivate industrial hemp for research and development purposes.”

Because USDA officials and lawmakers are still hammering out the details of a federal regulatory structure for hemp, the market remains under the legal auspices of the 2014 Farm Bill and its pilot programs.

EOV and its higher education institution partner intend on participating—with the contracted help from Oklahoma farmers.

But not so fast, Biggs has countered.

“Biggs has repeatedly and unilaterally communicated to FSA employees statewide, as well as inquiring farmers, that if they enter into a contract with EOV, or if they plant even one hemp seed, they will be subject to losing their existing farm loans,” the lawsuit states. (Biggs’ agency provides farmers with loans, crop insurance and other benefits.)

EOV began approaching Oklahoma farmers in March and April 2019, seeking contracts with those interested in growing hemp. “In abundance of caution,” according to the lawsuit, “all farmers were directed to contact FSA regarding their participation in the Oklahoma Hemp Program to assure the farmers there would be no negative implications for their participation with EOV in the program.”

One farmer, Jeff Dill, of Harmon County, wrote in a signed affidavit that a state FSA employee had insisted that he’d be facing penalties for getting involved in this enterprise. The employee told Dill that, were he to participate in this contracted activity, he “could be ineligible for all FSA programs.” The email also stated that he “could be subject to having all of [his] loans called and that anyone who was affiliated [with him] … would be subject to the same.”

In the lawsuit, EOV writes that FSA approval is not required under the Oklahoma statute governing its hemp pilot program—which is accurate.

EOV has an open request under the Freedom of Information Act for an email circulated by Biggs, which allegedly describes the agency’s approach to hemp farming: “[A]ll participants in the Oklahoma Hemp Program will be subject to having their FSA loans called, they will be denied new loans, and they will be subject to criminal charges.

Under federal law, any person “convicted under state or federal law of planting, growing, harvesting, or storing a controlled substance shall be ineligible for any USDA or FSA benefit.” And while the 2018 Farm Bill did remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, the state of Oklahoma has not done the same in its own statutes. “Marihuana” remains listed among Schedule-I substances, and the definition of that term includes “all parts of the plant, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.”

According to state statute, “Any conflict between state and federal law with regard to the particular schedule in which a substance is listed shall be resolved in favor of state law.”

The underlying urgency for the EOV in sorting out this interpretation lies in the very planting season: The company and the farmers may miss out on the year’s worth of business and lessons learned, if Biggs and the state division of the FSA continue to block hemp production.

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Washington hemp industry grows, but not as fast as Oregon’s

Washington state hemp farm

The number of licensed hemp farmers in Washington has more than doubled since May, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

As of Tuesday the department had issued licenses to 87 growers, compared to 35 in late May. The state has issued another 18 licenses to processors. Many farmers have combination licenses to grow and process hemp.

The department is reviewing about 30 more applications and expects to eventually issue approximately 150 hemp-related licenses this year, spokesman Chris McGann said.

Washington’s hemp industry is still small compared to several states, including Oregon. The growth, however, firms up a once-shaky program. Washington’s hemp crop last year was 140 acres cultivated by the Colville tribe in northeast Washington.

This year, farmers have registered to plant 6,700 acres, not counting greenhouses. Several large Eastern Washington farms have obtained hemp licenses.

McGann said the department anticipates the hemp program will become self-supporting. Lawmakers this spring sent the department $212,000 to avoid massive increases in license fees paid by farmers.

“We don’t expect to have to go back to the Legislature,” McGann said. “All expectations are, yes, it will be sustainable.”

The 2018 Farm Bill took hemp off the federally controlled substance list. The federal government still requires states to license and inspect hemp farms.

Oregon has added 300 licensed hemp farmers in the past seven weeks and now has 1,642, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Farmers have registered to plant 53,573, almost a fivefold increase over last year when the state licensed 584 growers.

The USDA is expected to propose national hemp regulations in the fall. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said after touring a Kentucky hemp farm July 2 that the crop’s connection with marijuana has not been entirely severed yet.

“I think what I heard was a lot of opportunity, but a lot of challenges needing a federal framework to help guide the progress of this crop,” he said. “We heard about financial transaction issues where this crop is conflated with its illegal cousin in many states.”

Industrial Hemp Association of Washington lobbyist Bonny Jo Peterson said the state’s first full-fledged hemp season has been marked by “mishaps and hiccups” as farms try to find the right seeds and equipment.

“I think too many farmers went too big, too quick,” she said. “There’s going to be a lot of trial and expense and unfortunately a lot of lost crop.

“If you’re not ready to go now, wait until next year. Learn from other people’s experiences.”

Peterson said farmers who plan carefully will be in better position to survive if the CBD oil boom busts. CBD oil is marketed for a wide variety of ailments. The Food and Drug Administration is examining claims about the extract’s benefits.

Washington collects an annual $450 application fee from hemp farmers, plus $300 for a one-year license. Farmers must pay another $200 for each additional field, plus testing fees.

The Washington Department of Revenue has said it will tax hemp like any other agricultural product. Hemp growers are eligible for tax breaks available to other farmers, according to the department.

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NC lawmakers want to ban smokable hemp, but farmers got a ‘win’ Wednesday

North Carolina hemp smokable hempFarmers may get to grow and sell smokable hemp for another year.

A legislative committee on Wednesday endorsed changes to the Farm Act, a bill intended to regulate the hemp industry, that would ban smokable hemp in late 2020.

The proposed ban isn’t ideal for hemp advocates. But lawmakers viewed it as a compromise between farmers who want to legalize hemp indefinitely and law enforcement officers who want to ban it immediately.

Taylon Breeden, who works for the Simply Extract hemp oil company near Asheville, said she was encouraged by Wednesday’s vote. She became a hemp activist after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which affects digestion.

The previously proposed 2019 ban would be “devastating,” for farmers, Breednen said. “This was a win for us,” Breeden said. “We didn’t think that this would be the case at all.”

The bill, passed by the Senate earlier this year, still needs approval from the House and Gov. Roy Cooper to become law.

North Carolina loosened its hemp laws in 2015. After state Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson County proposed the Farm Act to expand the industry even further, law enforcement groups spoke out against the spread of hemp flower.

Hemp looks and smells like marijuana — it’s green and has a skunky odor — but it can’t get users high because it has only a small amount of the chemical THC. Prosecutors and cops say the similarities between the plants complicate drug investigations.

Their position was emphasized in Wednesday’s meeting when Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, a Democrat, said local police were recently able to arrest a felon with a firearm after smelling the marijuana odor from his car.

“This is a public safety concern,” she said.

Until Wednesday, the bill included an amendment to ban smokable hemp this December. The proposed December 2020 ban gives lawmakers another year to find a kit that can help police test for THC in hemp.

The bill had been stalled for a few weeks. But it advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday after a change in position by Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Republican from Duplin County.

Dixon previously said the legislature was putting the “cart before the horse” for approving smokable hemp before law enforcement agencies adopted a cheap, reliable method for testing for THC. He previously proposed a ban starting Dec. 1, 2019.

But Wednesday, Dixon stood next to Jackson in the committee and asked committee members to support a ban starting in December 2020.

“There’s not yet been a bill proposed in this committee or any other committee that would solve law enforcement’s concerns. The General Assembly does not have the ability to do that,” Dixon said. “This is ultimately going to be resolved in the courts.”

It’s unclear whether the full House will support the proposal from Dixon and Jackson, both Republicans.

State Rep. Allen McNeill, a Randolph County Republican, said he’d support the bill Wednesday to advance it out of the committee. But he said he’s not sure if he’ll vote for it on the House floor.

State Rep. Brandon Lofton, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, pointed out that the reverting the bill to Jackson’s version would undo amendments adopted in other House committees.

Dixon suggested that Lofton shouldn’t tie his hopes to one version of any bill.

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Oregon hemp farmers seek stable marketplace

Oregon hemp farmerThe Oregon hemp industry is booming, but still faces an uncertain future.

A lack of consistent testing policies, outdated U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation and rules, and problems with banking were some of the issues behind the urgent tone at a recent Oregon hemp farmer roundtable discussion hosted by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden at the University of Oregon Downtown Innovation Hub.

Farmers sat alongside industry lobbyists, scientists, professors, designers, producers and Oregon Department of Agriculture officials, expressing their concerns for the future of the industrial hemp business and crop. Despite the uncertainty, Wyden said the level of commitment from industry professionals makes Oregon the perfect state to lead the industry.

“We’ve got it all right around this table,” the Oregon Democrat said during the early July roundtable. “We’ve got essentially the modern leadership to tap the incredible potential for hemp growth in Oregon. And Oregon, as is our tradition, can be a trailblazer with addressing these issues.”

Need for clear regulations, testing

In 2018, Wyden led the charge to legalize hemp with legislation in the 2018 Farm Bill. Wyden’s work alongside Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it possible for the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 to become a bipartisan piece of legislation included in the final bill that passed in December.

The bill defined hemp as an agricultural commodity and ultimately removed it from the controlled substance list. The legislation allows for interstate commerce and crop insurance. States are federally required to regulate and inspect hemp farms, but the act gives them the ability to be the primary regulators of hemp production.

Because hemp is now labeled as an agricultural commodity, the USDA is in charge of regulating it instead of the U.S. Department of Justice. Unfortunately, the USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have not issued updated policies and regulations hemp industry professionals need. These regulations would determine testing and production specifications the industry abides by. Without them, farmers risk losing thousands of dollars because their current crops may not be in compliance.

The lack of industry standards is what Liz Gale, farmer and owner of Living Harvest Farm LLC in Dallas, Ore., said made the roundtable meeting extremely important because farmers need to know what’s going on.

“Things change all the time,” Gale said. “The plants that I have in the ground right now, what’s all decided around these tables, is going to determine whether I can sell it or not at the end of the year.”

Gale said she’s grown medicinal and recreational crops in the past but hemp creates new opportunities. For Gale, a mother of two sons, hemp farming is a family business.

“If you can sustain your family, and generationally have family farms with hemp crops, that’s where I think hemp will change America,”  she said.

Unfortunately, the industry needs to cut through red tape before it can change much of anything. A big part of the issue comes down to testing the plants and defining THC.

While marijuana and hemp are cannabis plants, hemp has a low THC concentration. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the concentrated psychoactive chemical in marijuana that makes users feel high. The Oregon Department of Agriculture issued rules saying that hemp can’t contain more than 0.3% total THC.

Total THC is the sum of delta-9 THC and THCA, an acidic cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Different testing methods at different labs may impact how the substances are measured and reported. According to Sunny Summers, Cannabis Policy Coordinator for ODA, the language in the farm bill isn’t clear.

“Testing consistency is a big concern and struggle for the industry,” Summers said. “I want hemp to be hemp in Oregon, in Kentucky, or whatever state it was grown in. I want it to be the same.”

Sean Beeman, co-founder of Genesis Pharms, is concerned that with testing issues, the booming industry that is Oregon hemp will come to a halt by harvest time. Beeman is most concerned about the increase in growers with little to no experience.

“Every grower I know or meet, both cannabis and hemp, are just too excited lately,” Beeman said. “There are too many people who think they can use their ag experience to make money. The reality is, just because you can farm corn, doesn’t mean you can farm hemp.”

According to Beeman, some agriculture farmers are jumping into the industry to make a profit and cutting corners to get past testing regulations. Despite the fact that the industry skyrocketed, Beeman said there’s a supply-and-demand issue when it comes to processing hemp, and ODA’s regulations are negatively impacting that.

“The bubble we have lived in this past year has popped and will not be back,” Beeman said. “The ODA has now updated the rules and these new rules greatly reduce the value and the possible positions farmers will find themselves in come harvest time.”

There are 1,642 registered hemp farmers in Oregon compared to 584 registered last year. According to the ODA, those farmers have registered to plant more than 53,000 acres. In an effort to further help the industry and protect farmers, Oregon State University will take the lead on certifying hemp seed for registered Oregon growers. This will ensure the seed and, eventually, the hemp crop, remain up-to-date with state and federal industry specifications.

In June, OSU unveiled its Global Hemp Innovation Center, the largest hemp lab in the country. Hemp researchers are now eligible to receive competitive federal grants through the USDA, under the farm bill legislation. The lab aims to innovate across several fields including food, product testing and cultivation by combining 40 members of OSU faculty, working across 19 academic disciplines to help address hemp’s full potential.

Lack of business services, hurts hemp farmers

While innovation is underway, business owners still are suffering. Hemp CBD companies are struggling to find credit unions and banks to work with, despite hemp being legal because it’s still a cannabis plant. U.S. Bank and its subsidiary, Elavon, made headlines when they cut ties with the CBD industry earlier this year.

Local hemp farmer Douglas Bergren agrees that there are significant banking issues for Oregon hemp farmers. Bergren and his wife Jenifer own Greenlogic LLC and the Lay Low Ranch hemp farm in Lane County. The couple is struggling to find a bank that will allow them to open a business account. Three of the company’s bank accounts — two this year alone — were canceled because it’s a hemp-based company.

“We are at the point where we can have personal accounts, but we can’t have one for our business,” said Bergren, who did not attend Wyden’s roundtable. “Our hands are tied.

It’s also been a struggle to find crop insurance, Bergren said. While the bill allows hemp farmers the ability to insure their crop, insurance companies are still turning farmers such as Bergren down. The couple say they feel incredibly fortunate to have their farm and to be able to work in the industry, but not having banking services for their business or the ability to insure their crop puts their company at risk every season.

“We’re losing the ability to function as a business, directly to retail,” Bergren said. “We have to work on a wholesale basis. For every one sale we make, we have to turn 10 people down.”

Hemp can be used as a renewable resource for paper, building materials, textiles and health products. A major market also has grown out of CBD, or cannabidiol, and its potential for food or health supplements. The CBD market is estimated to grow from $618 million in 2018 to $22 billion by 2022, according to the Brightfield Group, an analytics firm that tracks the cannabis industry.

While there are a few financial institutions that support CBD-based companies, others view the lack of regulation from the FDA as a risk.

In a June 2019 press release, the FDA said it was actively evaluating the framework surrounding regulations for non-drug use of cannabis-derived products and would consider what legislation or regulatory updates should be made.

Wyden said he received a letter from the FDA saying the agency would need three to five years to evaluate regulations.

“I am going to bring the Food and Drug Administration kicking and screaming and hollering in to getting these issues resolved,” said Wyden, calling it regulatory underbrush that needed to be handled.

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Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska company chosen to grow hemp

A farming business owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s economic development corporation will start growing hemp this summer on the tribe’s reservation.

Ho-Chunk Farms announced Thursday that it was one of 10 applicants that received a state license to start hemp farming. Nebraska cleared the way for a limited number of farmers to grow hemp with a new law passed in May.

Aaron LaPointe, the company’s business manager, says the first season will start small, with 5.5 acres of hemp. Planting is expected to start in the coming weeks. LaPointe says the initial crop for a pilot program will help the company prepare for next year.

Industrial hemp was legalized in 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.

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Coalition Letter to USDA on Farm Bill Hemp Felony Provisions

June 14, 2019

The Honorable Stephen Alexander Vaden
General Counsel
Office of General Counsel
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Mr. Vaden:

We write concerning a provision enacted as part of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334) that makes any person convicted within the past ten years of a felony relating to a controlled substance under State or Federal law ineligible to produce hemp in accordance with a State, Tribal or Federal plan and Federal regulations. We urge the USDA to implement the hemp felony ban to apply only to individuals seeking a license or authorization to produce hemp in accordance with a state, tribal or USDA plan.

Although Congress specified that the hemp felony ban should apply to producers, there are many occupational roles that could be interpreted to be involved in hemp production. Should the provision be interpreted in an inappropriately broad manner, state agricultural authorities and the private sector would be required to conduct costly background checks, screen and track workers involved in hemp production operations such as cultivation, processing, packaging and transporting hemp products. Application of the hemp felony ban in this manner through USDA rulemaking would impose unnecessary hardship on states, the agriculture industry and individual farmers to comply with the rule.

We believe a fair reading of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 and the accompanying conference report indicates that Congress intended for this provision to only apply to individuals seeking a license or authorization to produce hemp in accordance with a state, tribal or USDA plan.

The conference report accompanying the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 specifies

“negligent and other types of producer violations that require enforcement under a state or tribal plan. One such producer violation includes the felony ban regarding individuals that cannot “participate in state or tribal plans.” The conference report then states that the felony ban “shall not apply to producers” who were lawfully participating in a state hemp pilot program prior to enactment. The felony ban clearly applies to producers.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 further specifies requirements that must be fulfilled before a producer can participate in a State, Tribal or Federal plan including:

  • Providing a legal description of land on which the producer produces hemp;
  • Producing hemp containing less than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis.

These requirements that a producer must meet to lawfully participate in a State, Tribal or Federal plan are consistent with the roles and responsibilities of an individual seeking a license or authorization from the government. The hemp felony ban therefore applies to individuals seeking to obtain and maintain a license or authorization from the government to produce hemp. The hemp felony ban should not apply to any other individuals engaged in lawful hemp production under a State, Tribal or Federal plan, including any individuals employed by a producer.

We therefore urge USDA to follow congressional intent and limit the application of the felony ban only to individuals seeking to obtain a license or authorization to produce hemp in accordance with the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

To further discuss our views, please contact Aline DeLucia with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture; or Scott Bennett with the American Farm Bureau Federation; or Eric Steenstra with Vote Hemp; or Grant Smith with the Drug Policy Alliance.

Thank you for considering our perspective,

American Farm Bureau Federation
Drug Policy Alliance
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
Vote Hemp

Vote Hemp Submits Comments to Food and Drug Administration Regarding Regulation of CBD

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Vote Hemp, the nation’s leading grassroots hemp advocacy organization, has submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration regarding proposed regulatory policies for hemp-derived cannabidiol, or CBD, products. Submitted at the invitation of the Food and Drug Administration, given recent December, 2018 legislation in the Farm Bill to legalize hemp farming in the U.S. and remove hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act; Vote Hemp’s proposal for FDA regulation of CBD products focuses on the imperatives to 1) Require that U.S. manufactured CBD products be produced in accordance with FDA standards for dietary supplements; and 2) Assert the importance of FDA acceptance of only plant-derived CBD products within existing framework for dietary supplement manufacturing and labeling; and 3) Have FDA promptly issue an Interim Final Rule with an accelerated effective date authorizing the sale of hemp-derived dietary supplements and foods containing CBD.

To read Vote Hemp’s statement to the FDA, regarding CBD product regulation, please visit:

“Vote Hemp is eager to continue this dialog with the Food and Drug Administration, to share our expertise on hemp products and the U.S. market for hemp goods, and ensure that consumers are able to obtain products manufactured according to the same best-practices and requirements for health and safety, that all other herbal dietary supplement products are accountable to,” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “The consumer demand for CBD products is for hemp plant-derived, high quality products, made from hemp grown by American farmers—not synthetic imitations. We look forward to engaging with FDA further to ensure the interests of hemp famers, business owners, and hemp consumers are protected.”

One of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. hemp market, hemp-derived CBD product sales are expected to exceed $646 million in annual revenue by 2022, according to Hemp Business Journal. For more information about the hemp-derived CBD market in the U.S., please visit:

Vote Hemp consulted with State agriculture officials and calculated that approximately 78,176 acres of hemp crops were planted across 24 states during 2018 in the U.S., 40 universities conducted research on hemp cultivation, and 3,544 State hemp licenses were issued across the country. Data from market research by Hemp Business Journal supports an estimate of total retail sales of hemp food, supplements and body care products in the United States at $553 million. Sales of popular hemp items like non-dairy milk, shelled seed, soaps and lotions have continued to increase, complemented by successful hemp cultivation pilot programs in several states, and increasing grassroots pressure to allow hemp to be grown domestically on a commercial scale once again for U.S. processors and manufacturers. Hemp Business Journal has also reviewed sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products, and estimates the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2017 to be at least $820 million. The United States is the largest consumer market for hemp products in the world.

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Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow the agricultural crop. More information about hemp legislation and the crop’s many uses may be found at