Category Archives: Crop Issues

Budget bill brings changes to Ohio’s Right to Farm law

The funny thing about a “budget bill” is that it’s not all about the budget.  Many laws that are not related to the budget are created or revised within a budget bill.  That’s the case with Ohio’s HB 166, the “budget bill” signed on August 18 by Governor Dewine.  In the midst of the bill’s 2,602 pages are revisions to an important law for agricultural landowners—the “Right to Farm” Law.

Ohio’s Right to Farm Law, also referred to as the “Agricultural District Program,” provides immunity from a civil nuisance claim made by those who move near an existing farm.  To receive the immunity under the old law, the land must be enrolled as an “agricultural district” with the county auditor, agricultural activities have to be in place first, i.e., before the complaining party obtained its property interest, and the agricultural activities must not be in conflict with laws that apply to them or must be conducted according to generally accepted agricultural practices.  The immunity comes in the form of an affirmative defense that a farmer can raise if sued for nuisance due to agricultural activities such as noise, odors, dust, and other potential interferences with neighbors.  If the landowner can prove that the activities are covered by the Right to Farm law, the law requires dismissal of the nuisance lawsuit.  For years, we’ve been encouraging farmers to enroll land in this program to protect themselves from those who move out near a farm and then complain that the farming activities are a nuisance.

The new revisions to the law in the budget bill change the requirements for the land and agricultural activities that can receive Right to Farm immunity.  In addition to protecting agricultural activities on land that is enrolled with the county auditor as agricultural district land, the law will now also protect the following from nuisance claims:

  • Agricultural activities on land devoted exclusively to agricultural use in accordance with section 5713.30 of the Revised Code, which is Ohio’s Current Agricultural Use Valuation Program (CAUV), and
  • Agricultural activities conducted by a person pursuant to a lease agreement, written or otherwise.

These two provisions significantly expand the geographic scope of the Right to Farm law.   A landowner may not have to take the step to actively enroll and re-enroll land in the agricultural district program in order to obtain Right to Farm immunity.  Instead, the agricultural activities are automatically covered by the Right to Farm law if the land is enrolled in Ohio’s CAUV property tax reduction program or is under a lease agreement, presumably a farmland lease, whether that lease is in writing or is verbal.  This means that any land in Ohio that is actively being used for commercial agricultural production will likely qualify for the Right to Farm law’s nuisance protection.

The budget bill also added new language to the Right to Farm law that clarifies that “agricultural activities” means “common agricultural practices.”  The law specifically includes the following as “common agricultural practices:”

  • The cultivation of crops or changing crop rotation;
  • Raising of livestock or changing the species of livestock raised;
  • Entering into and operating under a livestock contract;
  • The storage and application of commercial fertilizer;
  • The storage and application of manure;
  • The storage and application of pesticides and other chemicals commonly used in agriculture;
  • A change in corporate structure or ownership;
  • An expansion, contraction, or change in operations;
  • Any agricultural practice that is acceptable by local custom.

This new language answers a question that we’ve long heard from farmers:  if I expand my farming operation or change it from the farming activities that I, my parents or grandparents have always done, will I still have Right to Farm protection?  We couldn’t answer this question with assurance because the law is unclear about whether it would also protect such changes.  Under the new law, the answer is clear:  transitions to new or expanded agricultural activities will also receive Right to Farm immunity.  The law also states that certain practices, such as storing and applying fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals and manure, are “common agricultural practices.”

The final change to the Right to Farm law concerns a provision that addresses farmers suing other farmers for nuisance.  Under the old law, Right to Farm immunity does not apply if the plaintiff who brings the nuisance law suit is also involved in agricultural production.  That is, farmers don’t receive Right to Farm protection from nuisance claims by other farmers.  The new law removes this provision.  Under the revised law, farmers will be able to raise the Right to Farm law as an affirmative defense if sued for nuisance by another agricultural producer.

Many lawmakers who were focused on understanding and negotiating the financial provisions in Ohio’s recent budget bill may have missed the inclusion of changes to our Right to Farm law in the bill.  Even so, with the passage of the budget bill, the legislature significantly expanded the reach of the Right to Farm Law and agricultural activities in Ohio now have broad protections from nuisance lawsuits.

Find the changes to Ohio’s Right to Farm Law–Ohio Revised Code 929.04, on pages 308 and 309 of HB 177, which is available on this page.

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Ohio Ag Law Blog—Hemp Bill headed to DeWine’s desk

Written by Ellen Essman, Senior Research Associate, OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

It’s been a busy week in Columbus, with the Ohio General Assembly sending multiple bills to Governor Mike DeWine for his signature.  One of the bills is one we have been following very closely—Substitute Senate Bill 57, or the “hemp bill.”

Bill history

Ohio’s hemp bill was originally introduced in the Senate in February.  The bill was written in response to the 2018 federal Farm Bill, which gave states the option to create hemp programs so that citizens within the state could cultivate and sell hemp products.  For a breakdown of the Farm Bill, see our post here.  Ohio’s hemp bill passed the Senate in March, and was sent to the House, where numerous amendments were made.

House amendments

The Ohio House made many changes to the Senate’s original hemp bill.  In June, we highlighted those changes in a post you can find here.  Most importantly, the House version, in addition to requiring a license to cultivate hemp, also requires a license to process hemp into different products. Additionally, the House’s substitute version of the bill created a Hemp Marketing Program, which would be similar to other grain and soybean marketing programs, added legally cultivated hemp to the list of agricultural uses permitted under CAUV, required setbacks between hemp and medical marijuana cultivation, and banned people from obtaining both hemp licenses and medical marijuana licenses, among other changes.

This week’s developments

We were not expecting the hemp bill to pass the General Assembly this week, as House Speaker Larry Householder indicated in June that the House would not vote on the bill until September 2019.  However, on July 17, 2019, the bill passed in the House with emergency language, and the changes were quickly accepted by the Senate. During the July 17 afternoon legislative session, we were given some possible insight into why the bill passed so quickly and unexpectedly; State Representative Koehler spoke about the need to help Ohio’s farmers given all the struggles they currently face.  Representative Koehler viewed quick passage of the bill as an opportunity for Ohio farmers to potentially have a new commodity crop in the ground next spring.

The emergency language in the final version of the bill means that once signed by the Governor, the law will go into immediate effect.  In other words, once the bill passes, hemp and hemp products will be decriminalized in Ohio and the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) will be able to immediately begin the process of writing regulations to carry out the new hemp cultivation and processing programs.

Great! Can I plant hemp right now?

No. Even with the emergency language in the bill, a few things still need to happen before farmers can plant hemp.  First and most obviously, Governor DeWine still needs to sign the bill into law.  Then, ODA must begin its hemp program rulemaking.  The rules will not become effective until the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approves of Ohio’s hemp program.  After USDA approves the program, then ODA will be able to approve licenses for those who want to cultivate and process hemp. The Ag Law Blog will keep you updated on the hemp rules and USDA’s decision—stay tuned!

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Risk Management Agency moves date for harvesting cover crops on Prevented Planting acres

With many farmers in Ohio unable to plant before the Final Planting Date for crop insurance, questions are arising about planting and harvesting cover crops on those prevented planting acres.  USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) rules allow operators to plant cover crops on prevented planting acres and to hay, graze, or cut the cover crops for silage after the posted “harvest date.”  In previous years, the harvest date for cover crops was November 1.   If an operator harvested the cover crop before that date, the prevented plant payment would be reduced from 100% to 35%.

The RMA has changed the harvest date for 2019, however.  In response to reduced livestock feed supplies that will result from the loss of planted acres this year, the RMA has moved up the cover crop harvest date to September 1.  An operator who plants a cover crop after the Final Planting Date and then cuts the crop for forage on or after September 1 can still receive 100% of the prevented plant payment, even if the operator sells the forage and regardless of whether the operator planted the cover crop during or after the Late Planting Period.  The Final Planting Date in Ohio was June 5 for corn and June 20 for soybeans; the Late Planting Period ended on June 20 for corn and runs until July 15 for soybeans.  Note, too, that a cover crop that was in the ground before the Final Planting Date but was not terminated because the operator couldn’t plant the intended corn or soybean crop can also be harvested for forage on or after September 1.

The RMA’s chart below illustrates payment scenarios for cover crops planted and harvested on prevented planting acres.

Capture

Other requirements for cover crops

While the cover crop harvest date seems pretty straightforward, don’t be fooled–crop insurance provisions can be tricky.  Farmers planning to put out cover crops on prevented plant acres should work closely with their crop insurance agents to ensure that all policy provisions and documentation requirements are met.

An initial requirement is that the cover crop planted must meet the definition of an “acceptable cover crop” for crop insurance purposes.   The RMA considers an acceptable cover crop as one that is recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement and planted at the recommended seeding rate.  OSU agricultural experts can help provide guidance on acceptable cover crops.

Operators should also be aware that many seed licenses, particularly for bio-engineered seeds, restrict the use of the seed to grain production only.  In those situations, planting the seed for a cover crop or harvesting it for silage would violate the seed licensing contract and create a liability situation for the operator.

Additionally, note that crop insurance provisions prohibit harvesting the cover crop for grain or seed, and an operator who does so will lose all of the prevented plant payment.  The cover crop harvest can also impact other provisions, such as the farm’s Actual Production History (APH) yields.  These and other provisions highlight the importance of a close working arrangement with the crop insurance agent in order to comply with RMA’s cover crop provisions.

For RMA’s guidance on Prevented Planting Flooding, go to this page.  The site contains a comprehensive list of questions and answers on prevented planting, along with information about the 2019 cover crop provisions.

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What’s happening with hemp?

Written by Ellen Essman, Senior Research Associate, OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the world of agriculture has been all abuzz about the potential for adding a new crop to the rotation—industrial hemp. (Our post on the hemp provisions in the Farm Bill is available here.) The passage of the bill caused states like Ohio, which did not previously implement hemp pilot projects in 2014, to scramble to introduce state legislation allowing hemp to be grown within their boundaries.  What is more, questions have arisen about how hemp and products derived from the plant should be regulated under the federal law.

Ohio continues to tinker with its hemp bill

Ohio’s bill to legalize hemp is currently stalled in the Ohio House of Representatives. Speaker Larry Householder indicated that the House will not vote on the bill until September 2019.  The hemp bill was first introduced in the Ohio Senate in February, passed the Senate in March, and advanced to the House floor on June 4. The bill still contains a lot of the same language and provisions from when it was introduced in February, which you can read about in our post here.  However, since it was first introduced, numerous additions have been inserted into the language of the bill.

First, the original version of the hemp bill only required a license to cultivate hemp.  The version currently on the House floor also requires a license to process hemp into different products.  Moreover, the current version of the bill would make licenses for both cultivating and processing hemp valid for three years instead of five years.  The new language in the bill also creates a Hemp Marketing Program, which would fall under the same laws and regulations as the grain and soybean marketing programs.  Legally cultivated hemp would also be added to the list of agricultural uses permitted under the current agricultural use value (CAUV) for land, which would mean land used to grow hemp would qualify for a lower tax assessment.

The most recent version of the bill also adds many more topics to the list for the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to promulgate via regulation.  The new version tasks ODA with adding conditions for acquiring hemp cultivation licenses, such as experience, and procurement of equipment, facilities, a sufficient amount of land, and financial responsibility requirements.  ODA is charged with establishing a compulsory setback distance between hemp cultivation and medical marijuana cultivation, and with including regulatory language banning hemp cultivation or processing licensees from also cultivating or processing marijuana.  ODA must also establish requirements for recordkeeping and reporting for licensees.  These are just a few of the new regulations ODA is authorized to enact.

The most recent bill, much like the first version, includes overarching prohibitions.  The current list of actions banned under the law is as follows:

  • No person shall cultivate hemp without a hemp cultivation license issued by ODA;
  • No person shall process hemp without a hemp processing license issued by ODA;
  • A person who is licensed to cultivate or process hemp shall not violate any provision of the hemp law or regulations;
  • A person subject to a corrective action plan issued by ODA shall not fail to comply with the plan;
  • No person may transport hemp in violation of the hemp law or rules; and
  • Any other requirements or procedures necessary to enforce the law.

The most recent rendition of Ohio’s hemp bill would keep the provisions of the first version of the bill relating to negligent and reckless violations of the law, but new enforcement tools have been added.  Finally, the new and improved hemp bill includes an emergency clause, which would make the legislation immediately effective upon its passage in both houses and signature by the governor.

FDA holds a hearing on the safety of CBD products

On May 31, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held public hearing to gather information and scientific data about cannabis products, so that such information can be used for future regulatory oversight by the agency.  Industrial hemp is a type of cannabis plant, so the hearing included discussion of hemp and hemp-derived compounds, such as cannabidoil (CBD).  In particular, FDA was interested in whether different amounts of cannabis in a product would affect people differently, or cause safety concerns, whether there is any data to show that cannabis is safe in food and dietary supplements, whether there are, or if there need to be, industry standards in the manufacturing of cannabis products to ensure safety and quality, and how marketing and labeling should be used to address potential risks connected to using cannabis products.   The hearing did not result in any FDA decisions on cannabis products and their regulation, although it is an indicator that regulations will probably be coming soon.  This means that sales of CBD oil and other products made from hemp will have to follow FDA regulations in order to be manufactured and sold.  Information on the hearing is available here.  As we reported in one of our Ag Law Harvest posts, those people still interested in submitting their comments about cannabis and cannabis compounds to the FDA can do so until July 2.

USDA releases its interpretation on transportation of hemp

In another federal development, on May 28, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a memo addressing the transportation of hemp.  The 2018 Farm Bill specified that states can ban hemp production and sales within their boundaries, but states cannot bar legally grown hemp from being transported through their state.  Since hemp regulations under the 2018 Farm Bill have not yet been promulgated, technically, there is no hemp that has been legally produced under the new law yet.  As a result, law enforcement in several states has continued to arrest people transporting hemp.  Furthermore, in at least one decision in Idaho, a court determined that it was illegal to transport hemp.  USDA released the memo to explain its disagreement with such interpretations.

In its memo, USDA says that the language decriminalizing hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill was “self-executing,” so it is no longer illegal to possess hemp or THC from hemp. USDA further asserts that hemp grown under pilot programs allowed under the 2014 Farm Bill can be legally transported across state lines because the 2018 Farm Bill did not immediately repeal the pilot programs.  USDA argues that this means that the hemp grown under 2014 pilot programs is legally produced, can be legally possessed, and therefore can be legally transported across state lines under the new Farm Bill.

It is important to note that USDA’s memo is meant as guidance to the states, and is legally persuasive, but not legally binding.  This means a person could theoretically still be arrested for transporting hemp through a state, and the courts may or may not uphold the state’s decision.  After the federal regulations under the 2018 Farm Bill are in place, however, there will be less wiggle room for states to carry out their own interpretations, which will likely but an end to this controversy.

What does it all mean?

While the regulation of hemp products, the transportation of hemp, and the legality of hemp in certain states may still be in question, all of this activity means that the state and federal governments are attempting to work all the kinks out.  Over time, the rules regarding how to produce, process, sell, and transport hemp, will likely become more defined and clear.  In the meantime, those interested in legally growing and processing hemp will have to play a waiting game.

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Have you heard about the Ohio Specialty Crop Registry?

By Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, Agricultural and Resource Law Program

The Ohio Specialty Crop Registry connects producers of specialty crops, beekeepers, and pesticide applicators to one another through free online registries.  Producers of specialty crops and beekeepers may voluntarily report the boundaries of their specialty crops and beehives.  The registry then compiles this information in a mapping tool that also provides the contact information of the registrant.  In doing so, pesticide applicators are better able to avoid these areas and minimize spray drift.

The Old System: the Ohio Sensitive Crop Registry

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) first launched a registry for sensitive crops in 2014 so that pesticide applicators could know the locations of sensitive crops before spraying in a given area.  The registry came about at a time when widespread demand for organic foods required more farmers to closely monitor what came into contact with their crops.  The original tool allowed commercial producers of at least a half-acre of a single type of sensitive crop to register.  Sensitive crops included just about any non-row crop such as fruits, vegetables, and herbs.  Apiaries, outdoor aquaculture, brambles, certified organic farms, nurseries, greenhouses, and orchards also could be registered.

The New System: the Ohio Specialty Crop Registry

Now, ODA partners with FieldWatch, Inc. to operate the Ohio Specialty Crop Registry.  FieldWatch, Inc. is a non-profit organization that operates three registries: DriftWatch for producers of specialty crops, BeeCheck for beekeepers, and CropCheck for producers of row crops.  FieldWatch creates maps based on the information from these registries, and makes those maps available to pesticide applicators in another program called FieldCheck.  In summary, the three registries are for the producers and beekeepers, and FieldCheck is for the pesticide applicators.

Ohio currently only uses the DriftWatch and BeeCheck registries.  According to ODA, the list of sensitive crops under the old program is virtually the same under the new system, meaning that producers of any non-row crop may utilize DriftWatch.  While beekeepers may report the location of their beehives in DriftWatch, ODA recommends that beekeepers with no specialty crops use BeeCheck.

FieldWatch, Inc. continues to update its tools to add features and indicators, and CropCheck represents one such development.  New for 2019, this registry allows producers of row crops like corn, soybeans, and wheat to register their crops.  Its development comes on the heels of the introduction of dicamba-tolerant seeds.  Only Arkansas, North Carolina, Illinois, and Indiana have adopted CropCheck for 2019.  Ohio has not yet adopted it.

Connecting the Dots between the Registry and Liability

At this point you may be asking yourself, why is this in the ag law blog?  That’s a fair question, and the answer is simple: risk management.  As more farmers adopt organic practices, as pesticides and seeds change, and as weather patterns evolve, the risk increases that pesticide drift may come into contact with and negatively impact specialty crops and beehives.

The law expects people to act reasonably and to exercise due care at all times, and this default duty applies to pesticide applicators.  Common claims for drift include negligence, nuisance, and trespass.  Each of these claims examine whether the parties acted reasonably and with due care.  Most often, when a court decides that a pesticide applicator acted unreasonably, it is because he or she failed to apply the pesticide in a manner consistent with the label.  Following the label is certainly an expectation, but it is not the only thing a court will consider.

When a pesticide applicator does not use FieldCheck, a perceptive attorney representing beekeepers and producers of specialty crops would likely argue that the use of FieldCheck is an industry standard.  If an attorney could establish this, then the failure to use FieldCheck would mean that a pesticide applicator failed to act in a reasonable manner and exercise due care.  While we have not seen an Ohio court consider this issue yet, as use of the program continues to grow, this argument will come to hold more weight when a case does arise.

When a pesticide applicator does use FieldCheck, he or she has a stronger argument that he or she acted in a reasonable manner.  FieldCheck provides pesticide applicators with a way to know exactly where registered sensitive crops and beehives are located, and allows the applicator to buffer accordingly.  FieldCheck provides a quick, cheap, and easy way to manage legal risk, alongside following the label.  Applicators who use the program may want to document when they used the program and also how the maps impacted their application plan.

These scenarios presume that the beekeeper or producer of specialty crops has registered the locations of their bees or crop with a FieldWatch registry.  When sued by a beekeeper or producer of specialty crops who did not register their locations, a pesticide applicator could use similar arguments as noted above in order to defend against the lawsuit.  However, the applicator’s focus would likely regard the lack of notice.  Again, these arguments alone would not likely determine the outcome of the case, but they would help the court determine whether the parties acted reasonably.

What about hemp?

Another question that some of our readers will also be asking is: which registry is for hemp?  We made a call and left a message with FieldWatch.  If or when hemp production becomes legal in Ohio, we’ll be sure to provide an update on which registry is proper for hemp.  Ohio’s hemp bill is on the move, and the Ohio Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee completed its third hearing of the bill this week.  However, we can’t forget that growing hemp is not legal in Ohio unless and until the bill is passed into law and the regulatory system is created.

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Hemp Bill Introduced in Ohio Senate

Written by Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Ten of Ohio’s thirty-three state senators have introduced and sponsored legislation that would decriminalize licensed hemp cultivation and production in the state of Ohio.  These senators represent a bipartisan mix of seven Republicans and three Democrats.  After the passage of the Farm Bill, we sent out a blog post that explained how current Ohio law does not distinguish hemp from marijuana, meaning that hemp is currently just as illegal under Ohio law as marijuana.  Senate Bill 57 would change that, if passed.

What Senate Bill 57 would change.

Senate Bill 57, if passed in its current form, would effectively decriminalize hemp cultivation and the production and sale of hemp products, so long as the activities are conducted under a license.  The bill establishes definitions for cannabidiol and hemp under Ohio law.  Specially, hemp would be defined as:

“the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, sales, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than three-tenths per cent on a dry weight basis.”

Importantly for hemp cultivators and producers, this bill would remove hemp from Ohio’s Controlled Substances Act.  We previously noted in a blog post that Senate Bill 229 from the last General Assembly was set to remove Ohio’s controlled substances schedules from the Ohio Revised Code, and instead would allow the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to create the schedules by rule.  That bill passed, and would have allowed sales of CBD oils that had obtained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  However, if Senate Bill 57 passes the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy would no longer be able to adopt rules designating hemp and hemp products as controlled substances.

The (potential) Ohio Hemp Cultivation Program.

The Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) would be required to establish a program to monitor and regulate hemp cultivation consistent with the requirements of the Farm Bill that Congress passed last year.  The Farm Bill authorizes the cultivation of hemp and the production of hemp products through state licensing programs.  Ohio’s program would include a licensing program.  Licenses will be valid for five years.  ODA and universities would not be required to obtain a license, but their activities would be limited to certain activities listed in the bill.  Hemp cultivation would still be illegal without a license, and could result in criminal misdemeanor charges.

The bill authorizes ODA to adopt regulations regarding:

  • What the license application looks like
  • What information the license application requires
  • How much a license costs
  • How background check will be conducted, and what they will examine
  • How ODA will issue, renew, deny, suspend, and revoke hemp cultivation licenses
  • How ODA will keep track of the lands where hemp is grown
  • How ODA will test for delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration
  • How hemp products must be labeled
  • How ODA will enforce the rules and conduct inspections
  • “Any other requirements or procedures necessary to administer and enforce” Ohio’s hemp cultivation program

The bill would deny licenses to any person who has pleaded guilty to or been convicted of a felony relating to controlled substances in the ten years before submitting their application, along with any person found to have falsified information on their application.

To administer the program, the bill would create a Hemp Cultivation Fund in the Ohio Treasury.  Application fees, fees collected from program operations, money appropriated to the program by the General Assembly or ODA, and any gifts or grants may be deposited into the fund for use in program administration.

At this time, the bill has only been introduced and referred to the Ohio Senate Agriculture Committee.  Bills are often subject to amendment, so stay tuned to the Ag Law Blog for updates on Senate Bill 57.  For the text of the bill, click HERE, or visit the Ohio General Assembly’s Senate Bill 57 webpage HERE.

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Hemp for One, Hemp for All?  The Farm Bill, Industrial Hemp and what it means for Ohio

Written by Ellen Essman, Senior Research Associate

Hemp is one of the most talked-about provisions of the new Farm Bill passed earlier this month by Congress and signed by the President on December 20.   There’s a lot of excitement about the removal of federal restrictions on hemp production and the economic opportunities for growing hemp.  But what exactly does the Farm Bill say about hemp?  Can Ohioans now grow, use and sell hemp and hemp products?  We dove into the 807 pages of the Farm Bill Conference Report (available here for your reading pleasure) to find answers to your questions about the new legal status of hemp and hemp cultivation.

What is hemp?

Before we go much further in this discussion, it’s important to understand that both hemp and marijuana are species of cannabis, but they have different properties.  Of particular note is the fact that marijuana contains much more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than hemp.  THC is the part of a cannabis plant that can cause a psychoactive effect in certain concentrations, but hemp plants generally do not contain enough THC to produce a “high.”  Hemp has many uses— it can be used for construction materials, fabrics and clothing, and animal bedding.  It has even been discussed as a potential cover crop.  Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a very popular extract of the hemp plant that is alleged to help those with anxiety, pain, inflammation, and other ailments, but not much research has been done to verify its effectiveness for medical use.  Note that CBD is also an extract of the higher THC marijuana plant.

Hemp is removed from the federal list of controlled substances—but only if it meets certain requirements

First and foremost, the Farm Bill removes hemp from the federal list of controlled substances.  Section 12619 of the bill removes hemp from the definition of marijuana, which is still an illegal drug under federal law.  In the same section, the bill federally decriminalizes tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) in hemp.  Not all hemp, however, is subject to this exemption.  Only hemp and THC as defined in the Farm Bill and as grown under the conditions set forth in the Farm Bill are accorded the exemption.

So, how does the Farm Bill change the definition of hemp?  The main hemp provision of the bill, Section 10113, separates hemp from the definition of marijuana and redefines hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

Coming soon: state and federal hemp production plans

The new law doesn’t allow a producer to start growing hemp today.  Instead, Section 10113 of the Farm Bill describes the two situations under which a producer will be able to engage in legal hemp production in the future.  In the first situation, the States or Indian tribes may take charge of the regulation of hemp production within their boundaries.  To do this, a State must first submit a plan to the USDA through their state department of agriculture.  A State plan must include:

  1. A way to keep track of land where hemp is produced within the state;
  2. Methods the state will use to test how much THC is in hemp plants;
  3. A way to dispose of plants or products that have a higher THC concentration than is legally allowed;
  4. A procedure for inspecting hemp producers;
  5. A plan for enforcing the law;
  6. A system for dissemination of a hemp producer’s information to the USDA; and
  7. Assurances that the state has the resources to carry out the plan.

A producer who wants to cultivate hemp in a State that has an approved hemp production plan must first comply with the State’s plan before beginning to grow hemp.   Predictions are that it may take a State about a year to create its hemp production plan and obtain the required USDA approval for the plan.

The second situation for growing hemp comes into play if a State or Tribe does not submit a hemp plan to USDA.  In this case, as long as the State has not limited the regulation or production of hemp under state law, the Secretary of Agriculture for the USDA may establish a plan “to monitor and regulate” hemp production within that State.  A plan established by the USDA must meet the same criteria as a plan written by a State, and the law also requires the USDA to establish a licensing procedure for producers.   Thus, a producer in a State that doesn’t have a hemp plan could legally grow hemp by obtaining a USDA hemp license through the hemp regulations that the USDA will develop, unless the State has prohibited hemp cultivation.  Section 10113 specifically states that it does not preempt or limit any state law that “regulates the production of hemp” as well as any state law that is “more stringent” than federal law in regulating hemp production.  Thus, a State can outlaw hemp production within its boundaries or include additional restrictions and requirements in its State plan as long as the plan complies with the federal law requirements.

Handling producer violations

What if a hemp producer doesn’t comply with the new law or with the State or USDA hemp production plan?  Section 10113 also describes how violations of the law will be handled.  If a hemp producer negligently violates a State or USDA hemp production plan, the producer could be subject to enforcement.  One negligent violation of the plan would not trigger criminal punishment, but the violator would have to comply with a corrective action plan prescribed by the State or USDA.  However, if a producer negligently violates a plan three times in five years, the producer will be banned from producing hemp for five years. Examples of negligent violations in the law include: not providing a legal description of the land where hemp is produced, growing hemp without obtaining a license “or other required authorization” from the State, Tribe, or USDA, or producing hemp with a THC concentration higher than 0.3 percent. If a producer violates a State or USDA plan “with a culpable mental state greater than negligence” (that is, purposely, knowingly, or recklessly), then the State or USDA must report the violation to law enforcement authorities.  Furthermore, persons convicted of a felony relating to a controlled substance under state or federal law are generally barred from hemp production for ten years following the date of their conviction, with the exception of persons convicted of a controlled substances felony but lawfully participating in a pilot program under the 2014 Farm Bill.  Finally, if a person falsifies an application to participate in hemp production, that person will be totally barred from producing hemp.

Legal hemp not to be prohibited in interstate commerce

The new law also allows for the interstate commerce of legally produced hemp and hemp products. Section 10114 says that a State or Indian Tribe cannot prevent the transportation or shipment of legally produced hemp through its state or territory.  While a State may ban the sale of hemp or hemp products solely within its borders, it must allow hemp products to move freely through the State.  For example, imagine that Pennsylvania allows hemp production but Ohio does not.  Producers of legal hemp in Pennsylvania could not sell the hemp within Ohio, but Ohio could not prohibit a truck, train, or other type of transport from carrying the hemp through Ohio to a destination outside of Ohio.

Hemp becomes eligible for crop insurance

Importantly, the Farm Bill also addresses hemp production risk by amending the Federal Crop Insurance Act to include hemp.  Section 11119 adds hemp to the definition of “agricultural commodities” that can be insured and section 11106 adds legally produced hemp to the list of crops that can be insured even after harvested.  Other provisions in Title XI waive marketability requirements for researching hemp.

Making way for hemp research funding

Several provisions in the Farm Bill ensure that it is legally permissible to fund hemp research.  Section 7129 amends the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act to allow the Secretary of Agriculture to award grants for researching hemp and the development of hemp products.  In section 7501, the bill amends the Critical Agricultural Materials Act to allow research on hemp, meaning that Congress believes hemp has the “potential of producing critical materials for strategic and industrial purposes.”

Finally, section 7605 amends the hemp pilot program language from the 2014 Farm Bill (for information on the pilot program, see our previous blog post).  The Secretary of Agriculture is tasked with conducting a study on the pilot program and submitting a report on the study to Congress within a year.  Section 7605 also repeals the hemp pilot programs, but only one year after final regulation on hemp production under section 10113 is published.

How does current Ohio law treat hemp production?

Ohio law defines marijuana as “all parts of a plant of the genus cannabis…” in Ohio Revised Code section 3719.01.  Hemp is in the genus cannabis, as discussed earlier in this post.  Therefore, under current Ohio law, hemp is the same as marijuana.  Marijuana is a controlled substance under Ohio law, and the law states that “[n]o person shall knowingly obtain, possess, or use a controlled substance.”

What about hemp-derived CBD oil?  Ohio enacted a medical marijuana law in 2016, although dispensaries in the state have yet to open (so far, only one dispensary in the state has been licensed).  In order to obtain medical marijuana in Ohio, it would have to be prescribed by a physician with which the patient has a “bona fide physician-client relationship,” and the patient would have to have a qualifying medical condition.  Medical marijuana can be prescribed and used in oil form under the law.  Since Ohio law lumps hemp in with marijuana, this means that in order to obtain CBD oil derived from hemp, a person would also have to follow the steps to obtain medical marijuana. Hemp-derived CBD oil also does not fall under any exceptions in Ohio’s definition of marijuana.  Ohio’s State Board of Pharmacy specifically stated in a guidance document that CBD oil can only be legally dispensed from a licensed dispensary.  In releasing this guidance, the Board of Pharmacy is purporting to act under the rulemaking authority granted under ORC 3796.04.

Note, however, that there are exceptions to Ohio’s definition of marijuana.  According to Ohio law, marijuana “does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oils or cake made from the seeds of the plant, or any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks, except the resin extracted from the mature stalks, fiber, oil or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant that is incapable of germination.”  Since hemp falls under the definition of marijuana, it is possible that some of these exceptions could also apply to certain hemp products made from stalks or seeds. Thus, it is plausible that some hemp products could be sold and used in Ohio.  The law also states, however, that no person (other than those licensed under the medical marijuana law) “shall knowingly cultivate” marijuana.  Again, since hemp is part of the state’s definition of marijuana, under the law, that means that nobody can “knowingly cultivate” hemp, either.

In sum, it appears as though some excepted hemp products could be sold in Ohio, but not CBD oil, as it does not fall under the exception.  Even if some hemp products can be sold in Ohio, hemp itself cannot currently be cultivated in Ohio.  The new hemp language in the Farm Bill allows states to be more restrictive with hemp than the federal government, so Ohio can continue its ban on certain hemp products even with the new federal law.  The State cannot, however, stop the transportation of hemp across the State, as explained above.  Conversely, Ohio’s General Assembly could remove hemp from Ohio’s definition of marijuana and redefine hemp according to the Farm Bill’s new definition, which could allow for legal hemp cultivation under the Farm Bill.  For the time being, growing hemp in Ohio is not legal, but that is subject to change.

Stay tuned to the Ag Law Blog for continuing updates on hemp laws!

 

 

 

 

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