Regulations Suffocating Georgia Hemp Farmers

The catalyst

My passion for hemp and CBD started nearly a decade ago. The experience of watching CBD help my son come back from near death, related to a vaccine injury which led to a rare immune disorder called dermatomyositis, opened my eyes to how important cannabis is for the human body. The fairly recent discovery of the endocannabinoid system, and it’s role in the human body, is shedding a light on how important cannabis can be important for the immune system.

So, when Georgia passed legislation legalizing hemp farming, I was one of the first to apply for a hemp farming license. Sure, many heard the news and saw dollar signs flashing above their heads, but my brain burst with ideas for education – I would finally be able to make organic medicine for my son, from seed to refined product. However, my hopes were shattered when I delved into the legislation in detail.

The issues with H.B 213 (Georgia Hemp Farming Act)

It didn’t take long to find that as an amateur hemp farmer with minimal investment power, I couldn’t afford the fees to have the flower processed into a consumable product. In reality, this process is nothing more than a simple ethanol extraction — something I’ve done for years as an herbalist in my kitchen, making my own tinctures and other medicine. The processing license alone would cost $25,000 per year. Instead, I focused on the farming aspect and the specifics of the Georgia hemp farming license. Making sure I was in full compliance with the law was the main goal, I didn’t want to lose my ability to grow hemp for my son once I was licensed.

The farming license was easy to afford, with the cost set at $50 per acre or greenhouse for one  year. Though applicants have to jump through many hoops related to the application process, most would find it to be fairly straightforward. It was the limitations of the growers license that stood out upon closer inspection.

The Breakdown

Different glass bottles with CBD OIL, CBD tincture and cannabis (hemp) leaves .

Processing Problems

Within my network of hemp farmers in Georgia and the surrounding areas, I knew a majority could process their own hemp from harvest to packaging, with a reasonably priced grower/processing license in their state. They could harvest, dry, extract and bottle their own tinctures, or just package and sell retail hemp flower without issue — a major percentage of their farm income. This is usually followed by tinctures and edibles like CBD gummies. Without paying $25,000 per year, this cannot be done in Georgia. Hemp farmers cannot even sell raw retail flower, even though every gas station in the state has low -quality flower ready to purchase.

(A) “Process” or “processing,” except as otherwise provided in subparagraph (B) of this paragraph, means converting an agricultural commodity into a legally marketable form.
(B) Such term shall not include:
(i) Merely placing raw or dried material into another container or packaging raw or dried material for resale; or
(ii) Traditional farming practices such as those commonly known as drying, shucking and bucking, storing, trimming, and curing.

Non Competitive Abnormally High Fees

Other states like North Carolina and Tennessee have affordable site-check fees, usually ranging from $100-$200. These site-checks are important to ensure regulation of THC content in raw hemp, and are necessary before each harvest, and include testing the THC content of each harvest. Here in Georgia costs are inflated to nearly $650 for each visit, resulting in a huge financial hit to my farm before any product is even harvested. How can we even compete with other states when our costs are substantially more?

Restricted Retail Flower Sales

CBD & green cannabis flowers

Another hurdle is selling harvested hemp as a licensed hemp farmer in Georgia. The legislation was definitely written to try and keep hemp from leaving the state. It’s focused on limiting hemp farmers from selling raw material to anyone but licensed state processors. Though the changes to the legislation allows us to sell to licensed farmers and processors in other states our costs are already much higher to grow hemp in Georgia and selling to other states makes it impossible to compete with those local state farmers. In addition, many Georgia processors won’t even quote the price offered per pound or the fee for processing your own crop. Many never even cared to respond to my numerous requests and those who did couldn’t give me solid costs of any service they provided.

§ 2-23-4:a3- A licensee to provide or sell hemp to any person other than another licensee, a college or
university authorized to conduct research pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section, or a
permittee with whom the licensee enters into an agreement pursuant to Code Section 2-23-7,
unless such person is located in a state with a plan to regulate hemp production that is approved
by the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States, or under 7 U.S.C. Section 5940, or otherwise in accordance with regulations promulgated by the United States Department of
Agriculture, and such person is authorized to grow or process hemp in that state;

What can licensed Georgia hemp farmers legally do?

A licensed hemp farmer in Georgia can grow, dry, cure and store hemp. After that we are only allowed to sell it to licensed processors in the state, or pay processors to extract or package our harvested hemp for us.

A few farmers have found ways around this dilemma. Those farmers are creating different processing businesses in nearby states to process their flower (with low cost processing license fees). They then sell that packaged product retail in Georgia through that non-farm business. A small-scale independent hemp farmer, I don’t have the luxury of starting a new processing business with a facility in a nearby state just to package and sell hemp flower retail.

I farm hemp because I am passionate about CBD and the benefits of cannabis, not to try and get rich from it. So I have focused on using my farm as an educational platform, offering private classes and tours, and selling items like shirts and hemp products like tinctures and vapes (which I can legally do, just can’t sell smokeable flower retail).

How can our Georgia legislators think the regulations in place are benefiting their licensed hemp farmers? It seems when writing the hemp law they didn’t even research the nearby states and compare their regulations and fees at all. In a state which traditionally values limited government and tries to focus on farming they have gone against their main political voice with the writing of this hemp bill as it is.

Let’s be honest here, this is mainly because hemp is in the cannabis family.Our political leaders seem to think most Georgia citizens are terrified of that monster plant called marijuana, and those fears are bleeding onto the hemp law. Or maybe those legislators are just twisting reality to obscure the financial interest from lobbyists to over regulate hemp and limit small farmers? Is big agriculture in control of the reins of the cannabis legislation in Georgia?

My ideas for the solution to these issues

First, licensed hemp farmers in Georgia should be able to process their own raw hemp. There should be no reason farmers in other nearby states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee can easily afford processing licensing, but not Georgia farmers. Whether that involves a second separate license can be debated, but there’s no debate that Georgia farmers deserve an equal opportunity. Farmers should be able to easily extract, test, and package all of their products in- house, retaining some of the profit margin for themselves, if they choose.

Second, licensed Georgia hemp farmers need to have the ability to sell hemp flower retail. This is the bread and butter of the blossoming hemp market in the USA for most hemp farmers. Search the internet and you will find many farms selling their own hemp flower directly to the public. Stop by any gas station in Georgia and you will find they all have hemp flower for sale. Why is it that only licensed hemp farmers cannot sell retail hemp flower? This makes no sense. Hemp farmers should be able to package and sell raw hemp flower retail or wholesale. We shouldn’t be left out of the growing smokeable hemp flower market just because we grow hemp.

Finally, we need to have comparable site-check and application fees to other nearby states. There is no valid reasoning why the Georgia Department of Agriculture cannot set these fees in comparison to other local states.

Wonder why all of the nearby states have highly successful hemp industries?

It’s because of the 3 reasons discussed above.

  1. Farmers can easily afford processing licenses in addition to their growers licenses.
  2. Farmers can sell hemp flower retail
  3. Farmers have affordable site check-fees

These simple changes could really ignite the Georgia hemp industry, bringing back an industry that was the backbone of the Georgia economy just 100 years ago.

Let’s make sure all of our legislators know we are educated on this subject!


Points of Contact for Georgia Senate Agricultural Committee:

nv-author-image

William Rodriguez

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *