Georgia Enters the Hemp Industry

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On May 10, 2019,  Governor Kemp signed the Georgia Hemp Farming Act (the “Act”) into law. This Act follows the passage of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill in December, which removed hemp from the definition of marihuana under the Controlled Substances Act, and provided for the legal cultivation, production and sale of hemp and hemp products in Georgia.

Consistent with the 2018 Farm Bill, the Act defines hemp as “the Cannabis Sativa L plant and any part of such plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with the federally defined THC level [0.3% on a dry weight basis] for hemp or a lower level.” The Act further describes the meaning of hemp products as “all products with the federally defined THC level for hemp derived from, or made by, processing hemp plants or plant parts that are prepared in a form available for legal commercial sale, but not including food products infused with THC unless approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.” Such hemp products do not include unprocessed flowers or leaves of the hemp plant and provides that the sale of such flowers and leaves is unlawful. 

In order to lawfully cultivate, handle, or process hemp in Georgia you must be licensed. Under the Act there are two types of licenses that will be issued by the Georgia Department of Agriculture:  a hemp grower’s license and a hemp processor’s permit. Grower licenses are issued for one year with an annual license fee of $50.00 per acre of cultivated hemp, not to exceed $5,000. To apply for such license, you must be a qualified agricultural producer and submit, among other things, an application, criminal background check, property coordinates, and consent for the Department of Agriculture or other authorized law enforcement to enter your premises for purposes of inspection and compliance. Processor permits are also for one year, with an initial permit fee of $25,000 and an annual renewal fee of $10,000. To apply for this permit, you must provide, among other things, a surety bond in the amount of $100,000, criminal background check, property coordinates and consent for the Department of Agriculture or other authorized law enforcement to enter your premises for purposes of inspection and compliance.

We expect to see more information later this year as the Department of Agriculture promulgates rules and regulations to carry out the Act and its plan on how Georgia intends to regulate hemp production. This plan must be submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture for approval in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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