As first hemp harvest begins, what happens when your crop grows ‘hot’?

By Jordan Rose and Adam Trenk | Rose Law Group

Jordan Rose has been active in the hemp industry rulemaking process, and Adam Trenk is a partner and director of Rose Law Group Hemp Department

On December 20, 2018, the Federal Farm Bill was signed into law legalizing industrial hemp. Soon after, the Arizona Department of Agriculture, which oversees the commercialization of hemp in Arizona, established rules to regulate the growing, harvesting, transporting, and processing of hemp under a new hemp licensing program. 

Qualified applicants first began receiving their licenses as early as June of this year and immediately began planting their first crop. In the coming weeks and months, we will be seeing the first official harvests from Arizona growers. 

Arizona already produces arguably the finest alfalfa in the world, and in short order we will see if our state can do the same with quality hemp.

The Arizona rules do not allow hemp crops to have a THC content greater than .3 percent, and there is an inspection protocol by the Department of Agricultural that requires testing before harvest. While the seed selection should help prevent growing a “hot” crop, it certainly does not guarantee the crop will grow and test under the THC level. 

So what happens if your crop exceeds the .3 percent THC threshold? 

First, you will have violated the state hemp rules and you will not be able to remove your crop from registered hemp site. Depending on the circumstances, you may be subject to license suspension, revocation or monetary civil penalties. You can request a retest, and there may be an opportunity to come to a resolution with the Department of Agriculture and remediate. That said, the state will take this seriously. 

Over the next few months, hemp growers will be interacting a lot with the Department of Agriculture, and it will be interesting to see how these newly adopted regulations play out.