by William Roark, Esq.

Hemp. CBD. This stuff is everywhere. It hit critical mass this holiday season when I encountered an advertisement so bad that it made me forget about the Peloton wife/girlfriend.

Yes – that’s right – a mall kiosk was offering “CBD FOR ALL.” And clearly their products were working like a charm for the model in the advertisement.

Fortunately, for those of us who prefer some level of consumer protection and regulatory oversight in our lives, on Friday January 3, 2020 Pennsylvania took a dramatic step forward towards reigning in the emerging hemp industry. Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture released the long awaited program details for the 2020 grow season. While previous years involved moderate additions and alterations to the program, 2020 represents a fundamental change in the way hemp is regulated in Pennsylvania.

Beginning in 2020, expect to see a few changes, not the least of which include the following:

  1. Processors of hemp must apply for a permit. This is big. Really big. Before, the processing of hemp in Pennsylvania was being done absent any direct permitting process or real regulatory direction. Previous permits were issued for the growing of hemp and then subsequent “research” necessary to satisfy the terms of Pennsylvania’s Pilot Program. Now, a second permit exists – one for the processing of hemp.
  2. Every property (growing or processing) will require a permit and a separate application. The days of identifying various grow sites across the Commonwealth under one permit are over. One permit – One property.
  3. New size restrictions for growers. Outdoor growers must plant and maintain a minimum of 1/4 acre and 300 plants. Indoor growers must plant and maintain a minimum of 2,000 square feet and 200 plants.
  4. Set back and property use restriction. New limitations are in place concerning how close a hemp facility can be to residences, schools, and public recreational areas. These restrictions are in addition to whatever local zoning ordinances may be imposed, and limitations on properties implicated by Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act.
  5. Background checks for “Key Participants.” Now, any person who has a direct or indirect financial interest in the entity producing or processing hemp, such as an owner or partner in a partnership, or persons at executive levels in a corporate entity (i.e. chief executive officer, chief operating officer and chief financial officer) must submit to an FBI Background Check and have it completed within 60 days of application submission.
  6. New testing requirements from the USDA. Perhaps most important are the soon to be released final rules and regulations from the USDA concerning the testing of hemp.  With the shift to testing “total THC” permittees will not be able to simply repeat what they did in 2019.

There is a lot to digest here, and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has done an excellent job rolling this program out.  With the increase of regulatory oversight comes the need the ensure that your projects and business plans comply with the law and regulations. Hopefully this means the days of “CBD For All” will now come with more protections for consumers and clarity for operators.

If you have any questions concerning this new program, and the changes it could mean to your business or clients, please contact William Roark at