Georgia Hemp Overview

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  2. Georgia Hemp

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant that contains no more than 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound responsible for the intoxicating effects of marijuana. Hemp became legal in Georgia and other states in the U.S. after the passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018. Hemp looks and smells like marijuana, making it difficult for law enforcers to spot the difference. Despite these similarities, hemp differs from marijuana in its chemical composition and effects on users. Hemp contains a very low amount of THC, typically less than 0.3%. On the other hand, marijuana, which is still illegal in Georgia, typically contains higher levels of THC. The high amount of THC in marijuana causes intoxication in consumers.

Hemp is a versatile plant with different parts which serve different purposes. People grow industrial hemp to produce hemp fiber, which is used to make plastics, textiles, and paper. Some farmers grow hemp to cultivate seeds and flowers with high CBD content. Hemp seeds are a rich source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats; they can be eaten raw or ground into a meal. They can also be pressed to produce hemp seed oil, which is used as a cooking oil or in beauty products. Smokable hemp flower is non-psychoactive and is useful for treating diseases associated with oxidative stress. Some common hemp products include:

  • Hemp Extract: Hemp extract is often made from the leaves, stalks, and flowers of the hemp plant. It is typically rich in CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive compound that is believed to have some health benefits. Also known as CBD oil, hemp extract is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety, pain, and inflammation. It is also believed to help in treating certain types of seizures and could have neuroprotective effects

  • Hemp Oil: Hemp seed oil is cold-pressed from the seeds of the hemp plant and has a light, nutty flavor. Often used as an alternative to vegetable oil, the hemp seed oil is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as other nutrients, such as protein and vitamin E. Some skin care industries use hemp seed oil as a basic ingredient due to its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties

  • Hemp Milk: Hemp milk is plant-based milk made from the seeds of the hemp plant. To make hemp milk, the seeds of the hemp plant are soaked in water and then ground into a fine paste. The paste is then mixed with water and any additional ingredients (such as sweeteners or flavorings) and strained to remove any solids. Being a good source of protein, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, hemp milk serves as a milk substitute for individuals who are lactose intolerant or vegan

  • Hemp Heart: Hemp hearts are shelled hemp seeds, which are small, soft, and cream-colored with a slightly nutty flavor. It is made by drying hemp seeds and removing the outer shell, leaving only the soft inner kernel. The kernels are then processed to remove any remaining bits of the outer shell and to ensure that they are fully clean and free of contaminants. Consumers can eat raw hemp hearts as a snack or add them to smoothies, cereals, granola bars, and baked goods

Is Hemp Legal in Georgia?

Yes, Georgia residents can grow, sell, and use hemp products as long as the THC level is under 0.3%. The Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, established a pilot program for the cultivation of hemp for research and development purposes, allowing states to submit proposals to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to participate in the program. According to the 2014 Farm Bill, which was effective until 2018, hemp production should only be for research purposes.

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 eventually made hemp legal by removing it from the list of controlled substances. This means that hemp is no longer classified as an illicit substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. The 2018 Farm Bill also established several regulations and requirements for the cultivation and production of hemp, including limits on THC levels. With the new law now effective, many states can establish their hemp regulatory programs without the need for approval from the USDA.

In 2019, Georgia legislators introduced and passed House Bill 213 in response to the 2018 Farm Bill. The Governor signed the bill in May 2019, and it went into effect immediately. Now known as the Georgia Hemp Farming Act of 2019, the state law sets out the rules and regulations for the production, processing, and sale of hemp and hemp-derived products. Prospective hemp farmers and processors in Georgia must obtain a license from the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) before they can cultivate or process hemp according to the new law. The purpose of the hemp law in Georgia is to provide farmers and processors with the necessary legal framework to produce and sell safe hemp and hemp-derived products for use in the state.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Georgia?

Hemp-derived products containing the USDA-approved THC limit are legal for use in Georgia. However, consumable CBD products, such as edibles, remain illegal, according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA). In line with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, the GDA also prohibits hemp-derived CBD oil from being added to food, beverages, and other commercial dietary supplements. The only consumable hemp products in Georgia include hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, and hemp seed protein powder, which should be for human consumption.

There is no law refraining residents from purchasing smokable hemp flowers in Georgia. However, smoking such hemp in public may result in arrest by local law enforcers who may not be able to quickly differentiate between marijuana and hemp. As a result, it is advisable to only smoke hemp flowers in a private residence. Smoking while driving will also be seen as a DUI offense in Georgia since marijuana and hemp have a similar appearance.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Georgia?

No. Hemp cultivation and processing are regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA). Municipalities do not have the authority to restrict hemp cultivation or processing within their boundaries. However, municipalities in Georgia have the authority to regulate land use and zoning, and they may use this authority to regulate the location of hemp cultivation and processing facilities within their boundaries.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process in Georgia

Hemp cultivation or processing is legal only for residents with GDA-approved licenses. Intending cultivators must apply for Hemp Grower's Licenses from the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, individuals or business entities who wish to process hemp into commercial hemp products must have a Hemp Processor Permit. Application for hemp growers and processors is usually open on January 1, while the license will be valid until December 31 of the same year. The state regulatory agency provides Hemp Grower Application Guide and Hemp Processor Application Guide to help applicants through the process. Both growers and processors can complete their applications online.

  1. Georgia Hemp grower's license requirements:
  • A legal description of the land intended to be used for hemp cultivation. Applicants can obtain property records from the county courthouse as proof of the legal description

  • GPS coordinates and aerial maps/photographs showing the dimensions and boundaries of the indoor/outdoor land

  • Electronically recorded fingerprints. This will be submitted to the Georgia Crime Information Center for criminal background checks

  • A written consent allowing local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to carry out a physical inspection on the hemp farm

  • Acknowledged Grower License Terms and Conditions

  • Payment of necessary licensing fees

  1. Georgia Hemp processors permit requirements:

Hemp processors can fill out and submit a paper application form and send it to the GDA via mail to:

Georgia Department of Agriculture

Hemp Program, Room 210

19 Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. SW

Atlanta, GA 30334

All applicants can request changes to their grower's license or processor permit applications. To make necessary changes, applicants must send written notices via email to the state agency at least 10 days before making such changes on the official webpage.

How Much Does a License to Grow or Process Hemp Cost in Georgia?

Georgia hemp growers license applicants must pay an application fee of $5,000 after approval from the GDA. Meanwhile, the grower’s license fee is $50 per acre of land used for hemp cultivation. Hemp growers will pay both licensing fee and application fee when renewing their application after one year. The hemp processor permit fee costs $25,000, which should be paid after the GDA approves the application. After one year, individuals or business entities can renew their hemp processor permits by paying a $25,000 fee. It is important to pay the license or permit renewal fee within 60 days from January 1 to avoid starting the application process afresh.

How to Grow Hemp in Georgia

Once licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture to cultivate hemp, hemp growers can purchase hemp seeds from reputable online retailers in preparation for cultivation. Alternatively, they can contact GDA via email to get help locating regulated hemp seed distributors in the state. It is important to select the right soil type before planting hemp. Hemp grows best in well-draining soil that is rich in nutrients. The pH of the soil should be between 6.0 and 7.5. Growers can test the pH of their soil using a soil test kit or send a soil sample to a local county extension office.

Row spacing is also an important consideration when growing hemp in Georgia. The rows should be spaced far enough apart to allow for proper air circulation and sunlight penetration. This will help to prevent the development of diseases and pests. In addition to these considerations, it is vital to comply with all the GDA regulations. This includes regularly testing the THC levels of plants to ensure they remain below the legal limit of 0.3%. Growers should also use only Georgia-approved pesticides for hemp cultivation. It is also important to properly label and track hemp plants to ensure compliance with state regulations. According to the hemp grower’s rules.pdf) created by the GDA, licensees:

  • Must use GDA-approved pesticides in accordance with the rules set in GA. R.& Regs. R. 40-32-2-.09

  • Must submit samples to a GDA-approved sampling agent 30 days before harvesting any hemp plants

  • Must not harvest the hemp plants until the sample testing is complete and the THC limit is verified

  • Must pay all testing or laboratory fees associated with the sampling

  • Must harvest the hemp plants within 30 days after getting the sampling results

  • Must dispose of or remediate hemp plants found to be higher than the legal THC limit. Then, submit a disposal/remediation report to the Department of Agriculture within 14 days after the disposal or remediation of hemp plants

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Georgia?

Purchasing smokable hemp flowers is not illegal in Georgia, provided the THC content is under 0.3%. However, no retailer or dispensary is licensed to sell hemp flowers in the state. An alternative way for residents to buy smokable hemp flowers is to check online stores that comply with USDA labeling and testing rules. Georgia residents can order any amount of hemp flowers online and get them delivered to their homes. Also, it is possible to order hemp from other states since it is now legal across the U.S. Approved licensees and permittees can transport hemp within Georgia and outside the state. However, individuals transporting hemp must present the following to law enforcement on request:

  • Copies of their grower’s licenses or processor

  • Bill of lading showing the hemp owner’s name, hemp product type, the quantity of hemp, point of delivery, and shipment time

Hemp vs THC

Hemp and THC are two different terms related to the Cannabis sativa plant. Like other varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant, hemp contains some amount of THC, which is required by law to be less than 0.3%. THC is the primary compound responsible for the intoxicating effects of marijuana. As such, hemp and other hemp-derived products with trace amounts of THC do not produce a ‘high’ sensation common in marijuana. In Georgia, hemp-derived THC is legal as long as the THC limit is not more than 0.3%.

Hemp vs CBD

Hemp and CBD are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are different. CBD is a chemical compound that is found in Cannabis plants, including hemp and marijuana. Generally, hemp contains high or zero amounts of CBD, depending on the parts of the plant. For instance, hemp flowers contain high CBD, while hemp hearts contain no CBD or THC. Generally, hemp-derived CBD products are legal for sale in Georgia. However, consumable hemp-derived CBD goods like edible and gummies are illegal. Also, the use and possession of marijuna-CBD products are illegal in Georgia.

Hemp Applications

Hemp has numerous uses in Georgia. Some potential benefits of hemp for medicinal and therapeutic purposes include pain relief, anxiety/stress relief, skin health, weight management, sleep improvement, and heart health. Other uses of hemp in the manufacturing industry include:

  • Paper Production: Hemp fibers are strong and durable, making them suitable for use in the production of high-quality paper products. Furthermore, hemp paper is resistant to moisture and does not yellow or degrade over time. This means hemp paper will likely last longer than traditional paper

  • Textile Production: Being a versatile and sustainable product, hemp fibers have a long history in textile making. The fibers are highly resistant to wear and tear as well as being naturally antimicrobial. With these properties, hemp is often blended with other fibers, such as cotton or polyester, to create a stronger and more durable fabric

  • Automobile Parts Production: Unique properties such as a high strength-to-weight ratio make hemp an ideal raw material for making lightweight and durable cars. Also, hemp can be a source of biomass energy to power vehicles, as it can be converted into biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel

  • For agricultural purposes: Hemp plants produce a large amount of biomass, which can be incorporated back into the soil after the plants are harvested. This organic matter helps to improve the structure of the soil, increasing its ability to hold water and nutrients, which can help to promote plant growth

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