This summer, Ohio law changed to allow the production and processing of hemp.
Hemp is cannabis plant material. Cannabis is the same plant that can be cultivated to produce marijuana. The difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp is composed of less than 0.3% THC, the ingredient that provides marijuana users with a “high.” The lack of intoxication from hemp ingestion versus marijuana ingestion stems from the genetic and sexual reproduction characteristics of the particular cannabis plant.
Hemp can be used to create oils (commonly marketed as CBD oils), paper, wood, clothes and plastic substitutes. Hemp is a frequent substitute for cotton, because hemp is stronger and softer than cotton and because hemp can be twice as durable as cotton.
Two weeks ago, the Ohio Department of Agriculture finalized the acceptance of feedback on the specific rules that will govern hemp production in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Agriculture is expected to finalize those rules in the coming weeks, which rules have the force and effect of the law unless the rules are inconsistent with the Ohio Revised Code.
The government’s strict regulation of hemp production stems from the fact that marijuana may physically be unlawfully produced within otherwise lawful hemp due to hemp and marijuana being literally the same plant species.
What we know now is that people or businesses will need licenses to grow hemp. Each applicant for a license will be required to pass a very stringent background check and will have to pay for that background check himself or herself. Each license is expected to have a three-year term with annual updates required during the three-year term. The applications for licenses and updates to licenses will likely require extensive detail, including the exact production location (via GPS coordinates), detailed maps and the acreage being cultivated (or square footage if indoors). Each licensee and licensed location will likely have a fee, estimated to be $100 per licensee and $500 per location.
Each production location will have to be at least a quarter acre in size or 1,000 square feet if indoors. Licensed producers will be responsible in ensuring that none of the cannabis used for hemp has THC levels beyond 0.3%. Further, each producer will have to facilitate and pay (estimated to be several hundred dollars) for the Department of Agriculture to spot check the plants’ THC levels three times each crop-year. Hemp will not be allowed to be grown within 100 feet of a house or apartment or within 500 feet of a school or park.
Securing legal hemp seed and marketing hemp products may prove to be the biggest challenge for Ohioans who want to raise hemp. To help in that regard, my firm is sponsoring a hemp production explanation meeting in conjunction with the Putnam County Farmers Union. The meeting is set to take place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21 at the Schnipke Inn in Ottawa but requires RSVP by noon Monday, Nov. 18 at 419-523-3068.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.