More than half a million acres of hemp have been licensed this year across 34 states, a massive leap over 2018, Vote Hemp, a grassroots advocacy organization, announced Thursday.
The number of acres of licensed hemp totaled 511,442 in 2019, more than quadruple the number of licensed acres over the prior year, according to Vote Hemp’s 2019 U.S. Hemp License Report.
Nearly 17,000 farmers and researchers received state licenses this year to cultivate hemp, a 476% increase over 2018, the advocacy group said.
The 2018 Farm Bill, signed into law by President Donald Trump, removed hemp (a strain of Cannabis sativa) from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and treated it as an agricultural commodity. The law ended decades of prohibition on the growth of a crop with a low concentration of THC, the psychoactive compound found in large quantities in the cannabis strain known as marijuana.
“We are seeing hemp cultivation dramatically expand in the U.S. in 2019, with over quadruple the number of acres licensed in hemp compared to last year and the addition of 13 more states with hemp programs,” said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, in a statement. “Now that we have lifted federal prohibition on hemp farming, it’s time build the infrastructure and expand hemp cultivation and the market for hemp products across the country so that all can reap the benefits of this versatile and sustainable crop.”
Due to inexperience, lack of financing and access to seed or clones, much of the licensed hemp is not planted, Vote Hemp said.
The advocacy group anticipates 230,000 acres of hemp will be planted in 2019. Of the planted hemp, Vote Hemp projects only half to 60 percent will be harvested due to such factors as crop failure and non-compliance with state regulations.
State laws impose restrictions on THC content in hemp, and per the 2018 Farm Bill, the crop cannot contain more than 0.3% THC by dry weight.
USDA is working on regulations for hemp production that it anticipates releasing this fall. Once the regulations are promulgated, states will have the option of submitting plans to USDA for approval.
The USDA-approved plans will pave the way for states to regulate hemp production beginning in 2020. But forty six states have already eliminated barriers to the production of hemp, Vote Hemp reported.
The 2014 Farm Bill authorized growth of hemp under certain conditions. The law, however, left questions over the permissibility of commercial activities, and it didn’t go so far as to remove hemp and its derivatives—including cannabidiol, or CBD—from the CSA.