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Tennessee Department of Agriculture passes new hemp rules

Jun 5, 2019

In 2015, Tennessee farmers began growing hemp in a pilot program to research the crop’s marketability. The pilot program was well-received. Cultivation licenses continue to skyrocket each year with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) approving 79 hemp production licenses in 2017, 226 licenses in 2018 and 2,900 licenses so far in 2019.

The increase of applications can likely be attributed to the recent passing of state and federal laws, such as the 2018 Farm Bill that removed hemp from the list of federally controlled substances. In response to the recent legislation and the pilot program’s success, TDA updated its hemp rules to mirror regulation of common crops, beginning on June 3, 2019. 

The TDA’s changes included substantial alterations of the rules’ scope, definitions, and licensing requirements, thus making cultivation easier for hemp growers. Will Freeman, a TDA spokesperson, stated, “If a farmer is looking to grow hemp on their farm, if they’re looking to diversify their farm with this new product, this new crop, we want to give them the opportunity to do that.”

Some of the changes include:

  • Moving to a year-round cultivation application period;
  • Establishing license expiration dates on June 30th of each year;
  • Removing processor registration to streamline licensing for cultivation and processing;
  • Canceling seed breeder licensing but continuing to require seed manufacturing, distributing, and labeling licensing; and
  • In addition to requiring movement permits when transporting rooted hemp, now requiring movement permits for harvested hemp.

The newly adopted rules do not mirror other states who choose to limit the number of cultivation licenses. Many Tennessee growers view the newly amended rules as a way to prohibit hemp monopolies from gaining strength within the state. Because of the loosened licensing requirements and the relatively free market, Tennessee is an attractive market for hemp cultivators as opposed to other states permitting hemp cultivation.

Tennessee remains a friendly venue for hemp cultivators and processors because there are:

  1. no numerical limits on issued licenses
  2. a streamlining of licensing for processors and cultivators
  3. less licensing for seed breeders

For more information on Tennessee’s hemp cultivation program, click here.

Summer associate Rachel Parker contributed to this report.

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