The Growth of California Hemp

Four months into the great 21st-century pandemic, it is a good time to look at the progress California is making on hemp, the challenges it has faced, and where the hemp roads lead in the golden state.

2019 saw over 30,000 acres of hemp grown in California under the 2014 Farm Bill. The Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has completed its 2018 Farm Bill state plan and is awaiting approval from the state’s Department of Justice before submission to the USDA. Pursuant to statute, CDFA was to submit the state plan by May 1, 2020, however, the pandemic has roiled the capital causing delays. While this is understandable to a degree, the impact of the delay is not insignificant. Farmers cannot apply for PPP loans without USDA approved licenses which can only come after California’s state plan is approved. Through the California Hemp Council (CHC), we continue to push for the immediate submittal of the state plan and transition to a fully commercial hemp program under the 2018 Farm Bill.

California vs. Hemp

California hemp and their farmers need a break. Numerous counties around the state have either substantially limited where hemp can be grown or placed increased regulatory hurdles in their way that must be overcome to farm what is now a normalized agricultural crop. The CHC continues to advocate on farmers’ behalf to educate the counties and urge them to loosen unreasonable restrictions.

Despite the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on the state, its budget, and legislative activities, two hemp-related bills remain viable in this session. The first would make largely technical amendments to the hemp farming statute but also includes an important provision for farmers: allowing for “disposal” of hot hemp, not just “destruction”. This amendment, consistent with the 2018 Farm Bill, will provide relief to hemp farmers by eliminating the potential of costs of destruction and providing alternative methods of disposal including the use of the material on the farm via other agricultural uses like animal bedding and compost. The second is the highly anticipated hemp manufacturing legislation that includes the Department of Public Health (CDPH) regulating the production of hemp extract rich in CBD and other non-THC cannabinoids. 

Hemp Bills In Legislation

Presently, the only pieces of legislation that will advance this session are COVID and economic stimulus-related that will be attached to supplemental budget bills, known as trailing legislation, in August. Both hemp bill’s authors are committed to seeing their legislation attached to trailer bills. Look for take action emails soon from CHC and other California hemp organizations urging legislators and the Governor to enact these bills that are critical for hemp farmers and the advancement of the industry in the state.

And yet, much more also needs to be done for the California and U.S. hemp industry to reach its potential. We need to move beyond the seed and flower to the hemp stalk and the myriad of industrial applications it provides. To do so requires investment in processing infrastructure which will only initially come through public-private partnerships. Simply put, the state must become a full partner in this effort. The CHC continues its efforts to achieve increased state involvement and realizing a bright hemp future.