The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) legalized hemp by removing the crop and its derivatives from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and by providing a detailed framework for the cultivation of hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill gives the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulatory authority over hemp cultivation at the federal level. In turn, states have the option to maintain primary regulatory authority over the crop cultivated within their borders by submitting a plan to the USDA.
I personally think that it’s a bit difficult to talk about Hemp-CBD in a vacuum in California, because the laws we have here are much more focused on the actual hemp plant itself. So today, I’m going to talk not only about Hemp-CBD, but also about laws on cultivation and processing.
Of all the things you can do with hemp in California, cultivation is probably the safest and most “legalized”. It’s had a relatively long and complex history in this state, beginning most significantly in 2013, when California passed Senate Bill 566, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act (or “CIHFA”). The CIHFA amended CA law to redefine “marijuana” to exclude industrial hemp, and to define industrial hemp. It also added a section to the Food and Agriculture Code that would regulate the production of hemp by established agricultural research institutions (“EARIs”) and commercial cultivators. Even though there was a law allowing commercial cultivation, it didn’t actually take place until many years later.
The next year, the federal Agricultural Act of 2014 (or “2014 Farm Bill”) was passed. As readers of this blog probably know by now, section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill allowed the cultivation of hemp for research purposes conducted under an agricultural pilot program or by a research institution, in states where hemp cultivation was legal. California still hasn’t developed an agricultural pilot program, but according to FAQs issued by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (“CDFA”), the pilot program is in the works.
After the 2014 Farm Bill was passed, on June 6, 2014, then-California Attorney General (and current 2020 U.S. presidential runner) Kamala Harris issued opinion 13-1102, which stated “Federal law authorized, and rendered operative, the relevant portions of the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act on February 7, 2014.” Harris’ opinion, however, noted that provisions of the CIHFA were “inoperative to the extent that they apply or pertain to any form of industrial hemp cultivation not authorized by federal law.” In plain English, commercial cultivation was still not allowed.
In 2016, the Control Regulate and Tax Adult Use Of Marijuana Act (or “Prop. 64”) was passed. Prop. 64 formally amended the above California Food & Agriculture Code sections to make the hemp provisions become effective on January 1, 2017. But even that didn’t really happen.
In 2018, commercial cultivation began to become a reality with Senate Bill 1409. SB-1409 (which we have written about here, here, and here) allowed for the commercial cultivation of hemp upon registration with the CDFA and county commissioners, effective January 1, 2019. It was only on April 30, 2019, years after the CIHFA was passed, that the CDFA published information concerning registration with county agricultural commissioners to cultivate hemp.
To date, CDFA has created (1) regulations that deal with cultivation for commercial purposes; (2) regulations that list of approved seed cultivars; (3) emergency testing and sampling regulations; (4) guidelines for county agricultural commissioners to collect certain information from EARI cultivators; and (5) guidelines requiring certain hemp cultivators to obtain nursery stock licenses. More are likely to come, and soon.
What this all means is:
Being California, this is of course about to possibly change. The state is considering passing new legislation (SB-153) that would amend the hemp provisions of the Food and Agriculture Code to be more consistent with the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. I plan on writing more on SB-153 in the coming weeks, but for now, here are some highlights:
This is just a brief overview and, again, I plan on writing in detail on SB-153 in the coming weeks. Needless to say, however, SB-153 would clarify a lot for hemp cultivators here given that the 2018 Farm Bill has yet to be implemented and, to date, there hasn’t been much action to get a California hemp production plan going.
The CDFA FAQs say all that needs to be said: “California law does not currently provide any requirements for the manufacturing, processing, or selling of non-food industrial hemp or hemp products.” That said, the California Department of Public Health’s (“CDPH”) Hemp CBD FAQs take the position that Hemp CBD is illegal in basically all foods, beverages, and some other products. Based on this position, the CDPH has apparently been going after manufacturers of Hemp CBD products on the grounds that Hemp CBD “adulterates” foods, under the California Sherman Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Law.
I recently wrote about a new law (AB-228) that if passed, would find conclusively that Hemp-CBD added to foods and other products does not in and of itself adulterate them. The law looks poised to pass, and if it does would do the following:
Hemp-CBD Product Sales
The CDPH’s Hemp CBD FAQs prohibit the sale of Hemp CBD in foods and many other products as noted above. It’s less clear about certain products like flower, oil, and vape cartridges. But we do know what if AB-228 passes, Hemp CBD may be allowed in many kinds of products that the state has, for some reason, tried to ban.
In the near future, we may be dealing with a “legal” and regulated Hemp CBD market in California.
Credit: Harris Bricken | Canna Law Blog
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