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Hemp is the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with the federally defined delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis, or the THC concentration for hemp defined in 7 U.S.C. sec 5940, whichever is greater.
In the State of Delaware, hemp is considered an agricultural commodity and is defined as a grain under Del. Code Title 3.
The 149th General Assembly signed Senate Bill 266 into law on August 28, 2018 allowing for the cultivation of hemp for agricultural or academic research, which is the only way that hemp can be produced in Delaware at this time.
The passage of SB 266 also gave the Delaware Department of Agriculture the ability to adopt any policies and regulations necessary to permit the cultivation of hemp when federal law permitted the cultivation of hemp beyond agricultural or academic research. The goal of this legislation was to position Delaware to immediately permit the cultivation of hemp if and when the federal restrictions were repealed; however, federal law still requires Delaware and other states to secure approval from USDA.
The 2018 Farm Bill, signed by the President on December 20, 2018, permanently legalized hemp and hemp products, establishing them as agricultural commodities, and removing them from the purview of the Controlled Substances Act. The 2018 Farm Bill expands hemp farming by authorizing states to develop permanent programs.
We realize that hemp is an economic opportunity for our farms and businesses. With the passage of the Farm Bill, the Delaware Department of Agriculture convened an internal committee to develop our state plan. Prior to the December 2018 government shutdown, states were given guidance to develop a plan that would be submitted to USDA for approval.
Through the shutdown we continued to talk with stakeholders, conduct research, and develop our state plan for commercial production. When USDA re-opened following the shutdown, any plans that had been submitted by states were not approved and before submitting plans, states were instructed to wait for regulatory guidance from USDA regarding the 2018 Farm Bill and hemp production. Furthermore, for the 2019 planting season, the 2018 Farm Bill provides states and institutions of higher education the ability to continue to operate under the authority of the 2014 Farm Bill.
This hold from USDA means that no commercial production of hemp will be able to take place in Delaware for 2019. Growers can legally produce hemp in affiliation with an institute of higher education or state department of agriculture.
The Department has established the Delaware Hemp Research Pilot Program under section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill and Delaware Senate Bill 266. The purpose of the Hemp Research Pilot Program is to explore an alternative to the traditional row crops grown in Delaware. The program authorizes growers to work with permitted institutions of higher education to gain knowledge of any aspect of hemp cultivation, harvesting, processing, marketing, or transportation of hemp for agricultural, industrial, or commercial purposes. The Department’s long-term goal is to establish a permanent program for hemp production to provide additional opportunities for growers to diversify, along with developing products that will support other agricultural industries.
This program requires farmers to establish a research agreement with Delaware State University, an institute of higher education, to grow hemp under a research program. Production of hemp for research purposes is limited to 10 acres per approved operation. An operation will be defined by the grower’s USDA Farm Service Agency report FSA-578. Growers must apply to the Delaware Department of Agriculture and be approved and authorized to participate in the Delaware Hemp Research Pilot Program. Hemp may not be grown in Delaware for general commercial activity, only as part of a research program; however, growers participating in the program are able to sell their crop if all research requirements are met.
The Delaware Department of Agriculture cannot advise that a viable market will exist for any grower of hemp to sell their crop. The Delaware Department of Agriculture does not hold any responsibility for ensuring that an end market for hemp or hemp products exists and does not take any responsibility for any losses that may be incurred by the grower.
It is recommended that the grower download and print the 2019 Delaware Hemp Research Program Grower Guide to help gain a better understanding of the program. Required forms are available for download in the steps below.
Note: Only an authorized grower can pick up the hemp seed from the Delaware Department of Agriculture. The grower must show government-issued identification and their Authorization Number in order to obtain the seed.
Note: The Delaware Department of Agriculture will need to be notified in sufficient time for the Delaware Department of Agriculture to sample the crop at least 15 days prior to the start of harvest for testing of the THC levels in the crop.
For more information or questions regarding Delaware’s Hemp Program, email DDA_HempProgram@delaware.gov.