Cannabis is a wonder plant for so many reasons — and most of them aren’t the reasons you might expect. This sacred herb has been revered for millennia not just because it can get users high; it was one of the first domesticated crops primarily because its fibers are so easy to transform into useful textiles like clothing and rope and because its seeds, often called hemp hearts, are dense with nutrition like protein, healthy fats and minerals.
In 2018, the United States passed a new farm bill which legalized the production of industrial hemp, which is defined as cannabis that contains less than .3 percent THC. However, many with productive herb gardens rightfully wonder: Can you grow hemp at home?
The Short Answer: No
Unfortunately, the 2018 Farm Bill does not flat-out legalize non-psychoactive hemp for anyone and everyone to cultivate as they please. In creating the new hemp law, legislators were not interested in loosening cannabis regulations across the country; rather, they were interested in bolstering a struggling agricultural industry with a new, exciting cash crop and invigorate the American manufacturing industry with new, hemp-derived opportunities.
The federal government maintains regulatory power over industrial hemp cultivation and production, though it does share some regulatory power with states. In particular, the Farm Bill does not outline exactly how states will regulate their industrial hemp farmers, but it does mandate that state departments of agriculture consult with law enforcement and the USDA to develop a suitable plan. As a result, different states offer farmers different systems for growing hemp — and some states continue to outlaw the cultivation of hemp entirely.
In every state where industrial hemp is permitted, states require farmers to apply to the program and submit their crop to tests to ensure that they are not (accidentally or intentionally) growing psychoactive cannabis, which isn’t protected under federal law. Most programs allow farmers to sell their mature crop as they deem fit, while others require farmers to participate in hemp research programs or reserve some crop for a specific purpose. Because home growers are not producing enough crop to justify such a cost-intensive program, home growers are not allowed to apply and participate in industrial hemp cultivation.
The Long Answer: Maybe
Because the Farm Bill gives some regulatory power to states, it is conceivable that some states might change their state law to permit the home cultivation of hemp. You might check with your state law to verify that hemp cultivation is illegal before fully writing off the endeavor.
Yet, even more worthy of attention is the fact that many states already allow for the home cultivation of cannabis — as long as the cultivator is aged 21 and older or holds a valid medical marijuana license. Though not every state with recreational or medical cannabis laws on the books permit home cultivation, most do, as long as households maintain a limited amount of crop and grow their crop in a publicly inaccessible place with the permission of the landowner.
Thus, if you live in a state where home cannabis cultivation is available to those who qualify — and if you qualify — you should be able to grow industrial hemp, as well. Though industrial hemp seeds might be more difficult to get ahold of as a layperson, you can find cannabis strains with low cannabinoid content available for home growers. Some examples include:
- Fast Eddy
- Easy Bud
- Charlotte’s Web
- Sour Tsunami
In truth, you can grow essentially any cannabis variety and use it as you would industrial hemp, particularly if you are interested only in the fiber or hearts. The stalk (where the fiber comes from) and the seeds contain such minute traces of cannabinoids that they aren’t going to get users high, even when used in high doses.
Ultimately, if you want the ability to legally grow industrial hemp without bothering to register with state regulatory agencies, but you don’t want to mess around with potentially psychoactive cannabis strains, you will need to get in touch with your state representatives. Though legal attitudes are changing regarding cannabis, there is still plenty of activism left to be done — and if you are passionate about hemp, you shouldn’t be afraid to do it.