By Michael Chernis, Chernis Law Group
On Sunday, September 30, Gov. Brown signed Senate Bill 1409 into law, finally creating a pathway for legal industrial hemp farming in California that will comply with section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill (codified at 7 U.S.C. § 5940). While existing California law permitted industrial hemp farming, the activity was, at least practically speaking, limited to established agricultural research institutions or those who could pair up with those institutions to grow hemp for “research.” Additionally, for anyone who wasn’t an established agricultural institution, testing standards were impossibly rigid (only DEA-registered labs could test crops for THC content), seed cultivars (breeds) were limited to those certified before January 1, 2013, and hemp could be farmed only for fiber and oil-seed crop, meaning that CBD extraction was not expressly contemplated. Most importantly, California’s existing hemp law was not compliant with the federal industrial hemp farming requirements created by section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill.
SB 1409 amends various sections of the California Food and Agriculture Code (FAC) to change all of this and the definition of industrial hemp under the Health and Safety Code (HSC). Among the changes, S.B. 1409 does the following:
• Authorizes the California Department of Food and Agriculture to create a pilot program and regulations that are compliant with section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill (FAC § 81007). This means that farmers will have a pathway to register with their county agricultural commission as soon as the CDFA creates the pilot program.
• Redefines industrial hemp to remove the fiber and oilseed crop limitation (HSC § 11018.5(a).
• Expands the purpose of industrial hemp farming beyond planting for densely planted fiber or oilseed crop (FAC § 81006(a)(1)).
• Allows the Department of Food and Agriculture to determine which types of laboratories may test industrial hemp for compliance with THC requirements (FAC § 81006(d)(5)).
• Eliminates the cutoff date for certification of seed cultivars so that any certified seed may be planted, regardless of when it was certified (FAC § 81002(b)).
• Creates a yearly registration requirement for famers who are not established research institutions to register with the local county agricultural commissioner (FAC § 81003).
• Authorizes clonal propagation of industrial hemp (FAC § 81002(a)).
• Allows ornamental cultivation of industrial hemp (FAC § 81006(b)).
A big takeaway from California’s new hemp farming bill is that extraction of CBD from industrial hemp flowers will now be permitted under California law. This is important in light of the recent statement from the California Department of Public Health stating that hemp-derived CBD and certain other hemp materials in food products was banned. Stay tuned on how the Department of Public Health reacts to SB 1409, as it will undoubtedly cause it to revisit their policy.
If you are interested in industrial hemp farming or extraction activities, please contact Chernis Law Group to discuss further.