Getting a hemp growing license: a step-by-step guide
After years of federal prohibition, state legislatures in the U.S. have legalized industrial cultivation of hemp. Some have even established state-licensed hemp programs in a bid to promote the cultivation of the plant as an agricultural commodity.
But why the sudden change of mind from the lawmakers?
Simple – the plant has immense economic potential across multiple industries. A wide range of products can be created from hemp, including paper, textiles, construction materials, fibers, insulation materials, animal feed, cosmetic products, food, and beverages
With all these business opportunities, you might be thinking of cultivating hemp for commercial purposes. For that, you’ll need a grower’s license despite hemp’s legal status.
But with regulations varying across states, how do you get a grower’s license without rubbing shoulders with the law? Here’s everything you need to know.
What to Do Before Applying for a Hemp Grower’s License
Before you even think of how to get a hemp growing license, ensure you sort out the following:
1. Find Out If Your State Has Legalized Hemp Cultivation
The enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill was a major milestone for farmers looking to cultivate hemp for commercial purposes. Previously, hemp cultivation was only legal for research purposes and pilot studies.
But with the Farm Bill in effect, most states allow and encourage hemp cultivation for commercial purposes, and this has created immense economic potential for growers. That said, your ability to tap into that potential heavily relies on your state’s legislation.
The cultivation of hemp remains illegal in Mississippi, Idaho, and South Dakota regardless of whether it’s for commercial, research, or pilot programs. The rest of the states have legalized the cultivation of the cash crop for commercial purposes.
2. Choose the Right Hemp Program
To be allowed to produce hemp, you must be authorized or licensed under either a Tribal hemp program, a State hemp program, or the USDA hemp program. The program you’re authorized under will depend on the location you intend to set up your hemp growing facility.
There are other prerequisites to keep in mind. For instance, if your Tribe or State has an approved hemp production plan in place or is in the process of establishing one, you must apply for a grower’s license under its hemp program. If there isn’t an approved plan or one that’s pending approval in your State or Tribe, you can apply for a hemp production license from the USDA.
To find out if your Tribe or State has a hemp production plan in place or pending approval, reach out to your tribal government or your local state department of agriculture. If you don’t have your state’s contact info, take a look at the Grower Contacts for Hemp Information.
For details on the status of Tribal or State hemp production plans that have been approved or are pending approval, check out this summary of Status of Submitted Plans.
3. Review Your Criminal Record
When applying for a grower’s license, you’ll be required to attach a copy of your criminal history report to your application. Some states may only ask for your fingerprints for a thorough background check.
If you don’t have an FBI criminal history report, there are two ways to obtain it:
Through FBI CJIS Division
You’ll need to submit a written request to the FBI CJIS Division. Attached to your request must be satisfactory identity details, including your name, place and date of birth, and roll-inked impressions of your fingerprints.
In addition to these, your application should also be accompanied by a valid money order or check to cater for the processing fee. If you don’t have a criminal record, a report reflecting the same will be provided.
Through a Bureau-Approved Channeler
The second method involves submitting a request through a bureau-approved channeler. A channeler refers to a private business that has a contract with the FBI to receive submissions of fingerprints, pertinent data, as well as the associated fees on their behalf.
Once you submit your request, the channeler organization will forward it electronically to the FBI CJIS Division and receive the criminal history report on your behalf.
If your criminal history report indicates that you’ve been convicted of any controlled substance-related felony in the last decade, you won’t get your hemp production license approved by your Tribe, State, or the USDA.
How to Get a Hemp Growing License
With the above prerequisites taken care of, you can proceed to submit your hemp growing license application. Here’s how to go about it:
- Step 1: Fill out the online application on your Tribe, State, or the USDA website – depending on your hemp program. Next, register the location of your growing facility on a Geographic Information System (GIS) map and pay the program fees.
- Step 2: After successfully submitting the application and associated fees, you’ll get a mail to your address with a blank fingerprint card with instructions on how to get impressions of your fingerprints at your local law enforcement offices.
- Step 3: Mail back your fingerprint card accompanied by associated processing fees (which vary from state to state), and a complete Hemp Program Background Check Request Form to your state’s criminal investigative bureau.
- Step 4: The bureau will complete the background check and mail it back to your state. If your criminal history is clear of controlled substance-related convictions in the last decade, your application will be approved, and your license will be sent to you.
Note that different states have varying regulation policies and fees relating to the growers’ license application, growing facility location, and appropriate THC quantities. For exact figures, consult your state’s website.
Want to Learn More About Growing Hemp?
Hopefully, we’ve covered everything you need to know about how to get a license to grow hemp in the U.S. Cultivation of hemp will not only boost the economy but also create a sustainable environment. Hemp plants are known to have long roots that aerate the soil and absorb a lot of carbon dioxide, reducing our carbon footprints. It’s certainly the crop of the future!