Growing Industrial Hemp in California Under Prop 64 (Adult Use of Marijuana Act)

Federal Law

In August 2016 the USDA, DEA, and FDA released a Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp to clarify the Agricultural Act of 2014, which legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes.

The Statement reiterates that hemp growing and cultivation, “may only take place in accordance with an agricultural pilot program to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp established by a State department of agriculture or State agency responsible for agriculture in a State where the production of industrial hemp is otherwise legal under State law.”

Only institutions of higher learning, State departments of agriculture, or persons licensed by State department of agriculture are free to cultivate hemp.  However, hemp products may not be sold for commercial purposes. 

Industrial hemp is defined as the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part or derivative of such plant, including seeds of such plant, whether growing or not, that is used exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed) with a tetrahydrocannabinols concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis.

While the Agricultural Act of 2014 may eventually benefit hemp research, it does little to help individual farmers in California.    


Starting January 1, 2017, AUMA allows farmers to grow industrial hemp without the need of a federal license.   However, growing hemp in California will violate the Farm Bill until the California Department of Food and Agriculture (or a similar agency) establishes its pilot program. 

Agricultural research institutions, institutions of higher learning, as well as individuals are able to cultivate industrial hemp under AUMA. 

Individuals are free to sell hemp for commercial purposes, however, they are subject to more stringent regulation than research and institutions of higher learning.  Under AUAM commercial hemp farmers are required to obtain a laboratory test report from a DEA registered testing facility, indicating the level of THC from a random sampling of the dried flowering tops. The sample must be accompanied by (a) the registrant’s proof of registration, (b) seed certification documentation for the seed cultivar used, and (c) the THC testing report for each certified seed cultivar used.

To pass as California industrial hemp the percentage content of THC must be less than or equal to 0.3%.  If the test results indicate THC levels higher than 0.3% but less than or equal to 1.0%, additional samples must be submitted and tested.  If further tests indicate a 0.3% – 1.0% THC level, the hemp must be destroyed within 45 days.  If THC levels are greater than 1% the hemp must be destroyed within 48 hours.