Understanding current process for growing hemp

Last month’s passage of the 2018 Farm Bill was a huge, bipartisan accomplishment, according to its supporters.

Others? Maybe not so much.

One of the things it did accomplish was decriminalizing hemp, which is technically identified as Cannabis sativa L. Again, a HUGE bipartisan accomplishment. Or not, depending on your view of what it means to “legalize” hemp.

We’ve had a number of inquiries about what this change means for Oklahoma crop producers, and the tales of untold riches. What are the details? When can we start? Are there any restrictions against just going ahead and planting it? Since it’s “legal” what else do we need?

But – as Lee Corso says – “Not so fast, my friends.” (Corso is a former football coach at Indiana and current college football commentator on ESPN.) Certain requirements are mandated by the Farm Bill, one of which is establishing the licensing process, which you’ll have to have before you can even think about planting the seeds.

Here’s where we are today:

In April of last year, then-Gov. Mary Fallin signed the “Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program,” into law. The essence of the bill is it created the path the producer must walk in order to begin raising hemp, but only for research purposes. It cannot be randomly produced in our state.

“The pilot program involves working with an Oklahoma university, which is also studying the impact of hemp production on our state’s economy,” OBA President and CEO Roger Beverage said.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, these entities worked with the Department last year and are planning to do so again in 2019 include:

Northern Oklahoma College.
Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
Redlands College.
Panhandle State University.
Murray State College.
Connors State College.
Western Oklahoma State College.

Langston University has the necessary license but is not accepting new growers at this time.”
Beverage said the Department has not yet modified its current rules about hemp production (for research only) to accommodate hemp production for other uses. That step is mandatory before Oklahomans can obtain a license to produce the product for any purpose other than research.

“In case you’re interested in getting into the hemp production business today you have to do so by working with a university or state college on ‘research,’” Beverage said. “The same is true if one of your customers is interested in exploring opportunities available today in producing hemp. Here’s what you need to know:

1. The first thing is you must do is secure your affiliation with one of the universities listed above. You’ll be required to sign a contract with that university that then enables you or your customer to produce hemp for research purposes.

2. The next step is to fill out an application provided by the Department of Agriculture (http://ag.ok.gov./cos/Industrial Hemp.htm). Explain what you plan to grow (varieties, ultimate purpose and so forth) and submit your draft application to Sara Wallace (sara.wallace@ag.ok.gov). Include payment of a $500 flat fee plus $5 per acre. If you’re planning to grow indoors or in a greenhouse, it’s $500 plus 33 cents/acre.

3. Then you wait 30 days to receive your “license” (to grow the product for research purposes only). Once you have the license, you must order seed from a certified low-THC seed list. You can view this list here: http://www.ag.ok.gov/cps/CertifiedHempSeedList.pdf.

4. The Department says you can begin planting between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Test the crop for THC content when clo se to harvest or when temperatures exceed 100 degrees.

5. When you’re ready to harvest your hemp crop, you’re required to notify the Department in writing. Thirty days before the harvest date, the Department will schedule its own testing. The Department comes out to test in the field and sends the samples to the lab for results.

Once you have a crop, the CBD content must be extracted from the plant. There are three CBD extractors in Oklahoma City buying industrial hemp products. The CBD extractors are critical to the success of your operation.

There’s also one in Tulsa and a fiber plant in Hollis.

Finally, the post-harvest report is due by the end of the year.

These steps will enable you to grow the plant for research purposes.

We anticipate the rules noted earlier will be modified shortly to enable Oklahomans to grow hemp for use in producing a number of products, and not be limited to “research.”