Maryland Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a class of the Cannabis sativa plant used for medical and industrial purposes. It is legally and commercially defined as a cannabis plant containing no more than 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a dry weight basis. THC is the psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant that causes the euphoric effects (high) experienced by users. A cannabis plant with a THC concentration higher than 0.3% (about 15%) is classified as marijuana or simply cannabis. There may be no physical differences between marijuana and hemp, but their cultivation and composition differ. Thus, hemp-derived products do not induce the ‘high’ associated with marijuana. Hemp contains more cannabidiol (CBD) than THC, while marijuana has less CBD.

Hemp is sometimes referred to as Industrial hemp because of its use in manufacturing industrial products such as biofuels, paper, rope, textiles, and plastics. The industrial use of hemp is in addition to its medicinal use. The parts and derivatives of hemp used for medicinal and industrial purposes include hemp hearts, hemp seed, hemp extract, hemp oil, hemp milk, and hemp flower. Hemp seeds are the seeds of hemp and are good sources of magnesium. They can help prevent coronary heart diseases and regulate the heartbeat. They can be eaten raw, roasted, or cooked. Hemp seed oil or hemp oil is oil pressed from hemp seed. It is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and other minerals. They are used in making cosmetic products because of their high nutrient content.

Hemp hearts are de-shelled hemp seeds. Hemp hearts do not contain CBD or THC and are rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and proteins. Hemp milk is obtained from hemp seed and can serve as an alternative to dairy milk. It is made by blending hemp seed and water. It has anti-inflammatory properties. Hemp flowers have high levels of terpenes and cannabigerol. It is typically consumed by smoking or vaping.

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Is Hemp Legal in Maryland?

Yes, hemp is legal in Maryland. The federal Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) permitted the cultivation of hemp for research purposes by institutions of higher learning or state departments of agriculture, provided it is legal under state laws. It defined industrial hemp as any part of the plant Cannabis sativa with not more than 0.3% THC concentration on a dry weight basis. However, hemp remained a Schedule I substance under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act and it was illegal to move it across state lines.

In compliance with the 2014 Farm Bill, Maryland enacted House Bill 443 in 2016. HB 443 authorized the Maryland Department of Agriculture to permit higher education institutions to grow industrial hemp for academic research purposes only. Furthermore, the state enacted House Bill 803 in 2015 to allow licensed individuals to cultivate, process, possess, and sell industrial hemp in the state contingent on a federal Act permitting the same.

In 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) was enacted, expanding on the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill significantly removed hemp from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedule I list of controlled substances and allowed interstate transportation and sales of hemp products. Moreover, the bill allowed the cultivation of hemp on larger scales by licensed hemp entities. States with laws that allow industrial hemp production must submit their hemp production plan to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval. The bill further allowed cultivators in states without hemp production laws and regulations to obtain hemp cultivation licenses directly from the USDA.

Maryland enacted House Bill 698 in 2018 to further align its hemp program with federal laws. HB 698 allowed hemp grown and produced in Maryland to be transported to other states and allowed hemp from other states to be sold in Maryland. The Act also repealed the provision for personal cultivation of hemp but retained the provision of hemp cultivation on sites registered by higher education institutions for research purposes. However, it allowed these institutions to partner with other entities or individuals to grow hemp.

In 2020, the Maryland Department of Agriculture submitted the Maryland State Hemp Plan to the USDA for approval, and the approved plan took effect from November 1, 2020. In the plan, the MDA made provisions for the commercial production of industrial hemp by licensed hemp businesses in the state.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Maryland?

Hemp products such as hemp flowers, hemp-derived CBD, hemp milk, and hemp oil are legal in Maryland. However, hemp edibles and hemp-infused drinks are illegal. While smoking hemp is legal in Maryland, law enforcement agents find it hard to differentiate between hemp and marijuana. Therefore, it is advisable not to smoke it in public or while driving.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Maryland?

No, cities, municipalities, or counties in Maryland State cannot restrict hemp cultivation in their jurisdictions. HB 698 does not make provisions for restrictions by local authorities.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process in Maryland

Interested hemp growers can participate in any of the two hemp programs managed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. The Maryland Hemp Farming Program began in 2021 and is meant for growers interested in growing hemp for commercial purposes. On the other hand, the Maryland Hemp Research Pilot Program is meant for those interested in partnering with the Maryland Department of Agriculture or higher education institutions to grow hemp for research purposes.

Maryland Hemp Farming Program

To apply for the Maryland Hemp Farming Program, an applicant must apply online via the Maryland application portal (OneStop). There are two parts to the application process. In the first part, applicants will submit their contact details, background checks for every key member of the hemp production process, and pay a $50 application fee. The steps and documents involved in the first part are:

  • Determine the type of hemp to grow. It can be fiber, floral for CBD extraction, or grain

  • Select the cultivation site. If the land is rented, an applicant must get written permission from the landowner to grow hemp on the land

  • Obtain FBI criminal background checks for participants. Applicants with felony convictions in the preceding 10 years are prohibited from growing hemp in Maryland

  • Complete and submit the part one application form. An applicant can submit via the OneStop platform (recommended) or send the completed application via mail. An individual applicant will fill out the Hemp Production Application (Individuals) Form and a business applicant will fill out the Hemp Production Application (Businesses) Form

  • Pay the application fee of $50

Applicants will receive authorization numbers after submission, which they will use to register their grow site with the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The FSA will assign field IDs and Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates for the hemp fields.

To complete the second part of the application process, applicants will receive emails from the MDA prompting them to fill part two of their application. They will submit information about the grow site, including the GPS coordinates and field IDs from the FSA. They will also submit maps of the property and signed Landowner Agreement Documents for rented lands. Successful applicants will be requested to pay license fees of $500 for each registered site.

Those applying by mail can send their completed application packs and checks to:

Maryland Department of Agriculture

Turf and Seed Division

50 Harry S Truman Parkway

Annapolis, MD 21401

Maryland Hemp Research Pilot Program

To apply for Maryland Hemp Research Pilot Program, an applicant must be involved in one of the following research options:

  • Partnering with an institution of higher education in Maryland

  • Participating in the Maryland Department of Agriculture Nutrient and THC project

  • Has designed a project and submitted it to the Maryland Department of Agriculture for approval

An applicant must fill out and submit the Maryland’s 2021 Hemp Research Pilot Program Application Form. They are required to provide the following:

  • FBI criminal background check

  • Grow site map including address and GPS coordinates

  • A $250 license fee for each grow site

The application form and relevant documents must be mailed to the MDA at:

Maryland Department of Agriculture

50 Harry S Truman Parkway

Annapolis, MD 21401

The MDA will send emails to successful applicants to print their licenses. There is no limit to the number of sites for which an applicant can apply in both programs. The Maryland Department of Agriculture only oversees the registration of industrial hemp growing sites. The law did not make regulations for the processing, distribution, or sales of hemp.

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

Application for the Maryland Hemp Research Pilot Program costs $250 per growing site and $250 to renew each year. At the same time, the Maryland Hemp Farming Program application costs $50 for part one of the application process and a $500 license fee per site for the concluding part. The license must be renewed yearly at the cost of $500.

How to Grow Hemp in Maryland

Hemp is a resilient plant that can grow in most climates and weather conditions. It is found in all continents and thrives in most areas except mountainous or desert regions. However, the optimal condition for growing hemp in Maryland is well-aerated, high organic matter, well-drained loamy soil. The first step in growing hemp is to obtain a grow license and then find a grow site. The pH of the soil should be between 6.0 and 7.5, and the soil temperature should be between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. While mature hemp plants resist droughts, seeds need moisture to grow. The soil must also be rich in essential nutrients required for healthy hemp farming, and it is advisable to test the soil for the presence of such nutrients.

Obtaining good seeds is the next vital step in cultivating hemp in Maryland. Vibrant seeds with good genetics will ensure an abundant harvest. Purchase good quality hemp seeds from trusted sources with standards. The purpose of growing hemp will help in determining the best seed strain to buy. The CBD-THC ratio must also be factored in when deciding on the best strain of seed for production.

The third step is to plant the seeds. Hemp seeds should be planted during the frost-free season. The purpose of the hemp determines the spacing between each plant. Hemp plants intended for fiber can be planted close to each other, while hemp plants intended for CBD or to produce hemp seeds must be well-spaced. They should be planted in shallow holes, at most 0.7 inches deep.

After the seeds have been planted, it is essential to ensure that they are well watered. Hemp requires 20 to 30 inches of rainfall during a growth cycle, and an irrigation system is required if rainfall is insufficient. Water and sunlight are crucial in the first 6 weeks for hemp plants; they require more water until they start to flower. After 6 weeks their water intake reduces until their late flowering stage. Maturing hemp plants require less supervision and individual care.

Hemp requires certain nutrients in the soil for a healthy harvest. Essential nutrients include phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. The soil test result must have shown the presence of such nutrients. In Maryland,it may also be necessary to use pesticides and insecticides to protect the plants from pests and diseases. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved 97 pesticides for use on hemp plants.

The lifecycle of hemp plants is between 70 and 140 days, depending on the purpose of the plant. Hemp plants reach the flowering stage in 90 days. Typically, hemp cultivated for CBD is ready for harvest in 120 days, while hemp grown for seed can be harvested in 105 to 115 days.

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Maryland?

Hemp flowers are legal in Maryland and can be purchased from local stores and online stores. The 2018 Farm Bill allows hemp products, including smokable hemp flowers, to be shipped in from other states. There is no limit to the number of hemp flowers Maryland residents can buy. However, some shops do not sell hemp flowers because of their similarity with marijuana.

Hemp vs THC

Hemp is a cannabis plant containing several cannabinoids, including THC. However, THC concentration in hemp is minute and, by legal definition, must not be more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis. THC is the psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant that gets users high. In Maryland, all hemp-derived THC products, including delta-8 THC products are legal and can be freely sold.

Hemp vs CBD

CBD is also one of the naturally-occurring cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is found in abundance in hemp. CBD does not produce euphoric or intoxicating effects on its users. It is more associated with inducing a calming, relaxing effect in users. All hemp-derived CBD products can be sold and used in Maryland.

Hemp Applications

Hemp is used for medicinal and industrial purposes. While its medicinal uses are well known, its industrial uses are less popular. Some of the industrial uses of hemp are:

  • Fuel: Industrial hemp can be made into biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel. Biodiesel from hemp seed oil may be used instead of fossil diesel in diesel engines. It can also be used in biomass power plants. Biofuels do not produce emissions like fossil fuels and are biodegradable

  • Textiles: Hemp fiber can be used to produce hemp textiles, a strong natural fiber used in textile production. It offers ultraviolet (UV) protection which is better than other fibers. It is also more durable than cotton

  • Bioplastics: Hemp plastics are made from hemp fiber and can be recycled indefinitely. They are biodegradable and are suitable for the climate, unlike petrochemical plastics

  • Automobiles: Bioplastics made from hemp can be used to make automobile parts. Such automobiles are more fuel-efficient because of the bioplastic's reduced weight compared to steel and glass fiber. It is also less prone to dents and bumps

  • Cosmetics: Hemp seed oil is used to produce many beauty products and treat skin conditions. The hemp seed oil contains unsaturated fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that are beneficial to different skin types

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