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USDA approves Minnesota’s revised hemp plan

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the state of Minnesota’s revised hemp production plan. The plan governs the production and regulation of hemp in Minnesota and needed federal approval as part of USDA’s U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program.

“We thank USDA for their work on this new federal hemp program, and we are grateful they have approved Minnesota’s revised plan,” said Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Assistant Commissioner Whitney Place in a press release issued Monday. “This is a major step forward, and we’re pleased that modifications have been made at the federal level that can ensure Minnesota’s hemp growers and processors are successful in this fledgling industry.”

This will be the first year Minnesota’s program will be operating under a new, federally approved state plan that governs production and regulation. When the 2018 Federal Farm Bill legalized hemp as an agricultural commodity, it also required states and tribal nations to submit plans to the USDA if governments wanted to oversee their own commercial program. In July 2020, USDA approved the state’s original plan. USDA then made modifications to their rule which required Minnesota to submit a revised plan for approval.

Some changes in the revised plan include:

• A hemp crop must be tested no more than 30 days before harvest to ensure the plants fall below the 0.3% total tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level. This is an increase from the previous 15-day testing window.

• Random sampling of fields will now be based on risk factors of the crop, allowing for more inspection flexibility.

• Remediation is allowed if hemp plants exceed the 0.3% total THC threshold but test under 1% total THC.

• A grower cannot be assessed more than one negligent violation in a year. The previous plan allowed an unlimited number of assessed violations. The penalty for violations is unchanged. Those with three negligent violations in five years will be ineligible for a license for five years.

Prior to 2021, Minnesota had been operating under a pilot program.

A license from the MDA is required for individuals and businesses to grow, process, research, or breed hemp in the state. The MDA received 454 applications for 2021 licenses. Applications were due April 30.

Anyone growing on tribal lands within a reservation’s boundaries or other lands under tribal jurisdiction (e.g., trust lands off-reservation) must obtain a license from the tribe or the USDA if the tribe does not have an approved hemp production plan.

Questions about the MDA’s Industrial Hemp Program should be sent to hemp.mda@state.mn.us or 651-201-6600.

Industrial hemp and marijuana are both types of the same plant, Cannabis sativa. They differ by the concentration level of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) within the plant. Hemp has less than 0.3% THC, and levels above that are considered marijuana.

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