If you are a farmer contemplating the harvest of a distinctive and profitable crop, you may be looking forward to taking advantage of Georgia’s legalization of industrial hemp. The Georgia Farm Bureau summarizes Governor Brian Kemp’s signing of the Georgia Hemp Farming Act on May 10, 2019, and Edwards & Curtis LLC recognizes how the commercialization of this useful cannabis plant may generate additional revenue for local agriculturalists and businesses.

Known for its fiber, hemp is primarily used in creating rope, fabrics and biofuels. Many people mistake hemp for marijuana, which is derived from the same cannabis sativa plant family. There are, however, notable differences. Marijuana contains THC or the psychoactive ingredient that is generally known for its intoxicating effect. Hemp, on the other hand, contains very little trace of THC. The surge in hemp’s popularity in recent years is based on sales of its extract, cannabidiol oil, or CBD. This ingredient is more commonly found in contemporary foods, energy drinks and supplements.

Georgia’s Hemp Farming Act does not provide for the manufacturing and selling of CBD-infused products. Cultivating, processing and distribution of hemp, however, may be approved. The following requirements from the Act may help guide you in getting started as an industrial hemp farmer.

  • Growers must first be qualified by the Georgia Department of Agriculture as an agricultural producer and obtain a Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption Card. Passing a criminal background check is required and applicants with a felony or a misdemeanor conviction for selling or trafficking controlled substances will be denied.
  • An initial licensing fee of $25,000 needs to be paid in full before taking on any hemp agricultural research or farming activities. The cost to renew this license is $50 per acre per year with an annual maximum fee of $5,000.
  • License holders are obligated to supply the GDA with a legal description of the GPS coordinates of where all greenhouses, acreages and farms are located. Law enforcement and agricultural department officials may enter these premises to inspect for compliance at any time.
  • Hemp may not be purchased or sold to any entity that is not also approved and licensed by the state department, or regulated by the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States when engaging in commerce with out-of-state entities.

Starting a farm or other profit-generating enterprise in Georgia for the purposes of cultivating hemp may require specific commercial arrangements. Visit our page on business law to learn more about the types of requirements and risks involved in starting up a new enterprise.