GFB News Magazine

Georgia legalizes hemp farming

Posted on May 23, 2019 12:00 AM

By Raynor Churchwell

The Georgia General Assembly passed the Georgia Hemp Farming Act (House Bill 213) right before it adjourned in April. Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law May 10.

The hemp farming act authorizes the research, production, processing and regulation of industrial hemp in Georgia. Hemp growers will be issued an annual license, which will cost $50 an acre with a maximum fee set at $5,000.

To receive a license, a farmer must be a qualified agricultural producer, which would be any farmer who qualifies for and obtains a Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE) Card from the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA). Farmers must pass a criminal background check by local law enforcement and disclose GPS coordinates for fields and greenhouses where hemp will be grown.

Hemp processor permits will be issued annually. The initial fee will be $25,000 the first year. Processors will be entitled to annual automatic permit renewals with a fee of $10,000. Every processor must be bonded and provide a written agreement with growers which governs their business relationship. All licensing will be done by the GDA, which will provide the regulatory measures for the commodity.

Until 1937, hemp was grown in many crop rotations nationwide. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 placed a tax on all cannabis sales, including hemp, reducing hemp production.

The Controlled Substances Act, passed in 1970, made hemp illegal. This changed in the 2014 farm bill, which established hemp production pilot programs.

The 2018 farm bill made growing industrial hemp and its products legal at the federal level. States must either follow the federal hemp regulatory plan or submit their own plan for approval.

As with any new commodity, a certain level of caution should be taken. At this time, interested producers have more questions than answers. Below are answers to questions we are being asked.

What is hemp?

Hemp includes all varieties of Cannabis that contain minimal amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which produces a “high.”


How do hemp & marijuana differ?

Both come from the same cannabis species but are genetically distinct and different in use, chemical makeup and cultivation methods. Per federal regulations, industrial hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC. Marijuana contains high quantities of THC and low amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) oil. The opposite is true of hemp.

HB 213 deals solely with hemp. The cultivation/processing of medical marijuana is addressed by HB 324, The Georgia Hope Act, which Gov. Kemp signed April 17.

When can Ga. farmers start growing hemp?

Now the bill is law, colleges and universities may begin hemp research. Farmers are not expected to be allowed to grow hemp in 2019. The GDA must first submit hemp regulation plans to the USDA. Once approved, GDA must write rules governing the production and processing of hemp.

What is hemp used for?

Hemp can be used in many ways depending on the part of the plant processed. The two most common uses are cosmetics and cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Hemp fibers are used in fabrics, paper, carpeting, construction materials and auto parts.

What is CBD oil used for?

CBD oil is thought to ease pain and inflammation. It has also been used to treat anxiety, stress, epilepsy, insomnia and some forms of cancer.

At this time, per the Federal Food & Drug Administration, adding CBD oil or hemp to human food or dietary supplements or animal feed is still illegal.

How does CBD differ from THC?

CBD and THC differ by a single atom in their chemical makeup. CBD cannot get you “high.” No matter how much you ingest, inhale, or topically apply, no psychological affect will be achieved using CBD oil.

What happens if hemp tests ‘hot”?

GDA or independent contracted entities will randomly test hemp crops throughout the growing season.  If hemp tests greater than 0.33% THC, which is often referred to as the crop being “hot,” the crop must be destroyed.

If a crop tests 0.3 - 0.33% THC, then it may be retested. If the retest is above the 0.3% threshold, the crop must be destroyed. If a producer is required to destroy his or her crop, their processor must reimburse half of the production costs.

Can marijuana cross-pollinate with hemp?

Because marijuana and hemp are of the same species, cross pollination can occur. Cross pollination could lead to an increase in THC concentration in the hemp crop, causing it to test “hot.” Cross pollination can also decrease THC levels in marijuana.

Are pesticides labeled for hemp?

Currently, no herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc. are labeled for hemp. Any applications of the aforementioned are off-label and illegal. 

Does the Federal Crop Insurance Act cover hemp?

Yes, as outlined in the 2018 farm bill. Coverage is expected to be available for 2020.

     Raynor Churchwell is an ag programs specialist in the GFB Public Policy Department. He may. Be reached at 478-0679,ext. 5288 or