Ohio Hemp Overview


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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant with trace amounts of delta-9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which may be grown for medicinal or industrial purposes. The term "industrial hemp" is often used to refer to the hemp plant. When hemp is cultivated for industrial purposes, such as for use in the production of clothes, ropes, food, and plastics, it is more commonly called industrial hemp.

Hemp and marijuana are often mistakenly regarded as the same plant. Although both plants belong to the same species, they are not the same. Marijuana and hemp are genetically distinct varieties of the cannabis plant that are distinguishable by their chemical compositions, applications, and cultivation methods. Industrial hemp includes a high concentration of cannabidiol (CBD) and a low concentration of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychotropic component in marijuana that causes individuals to experience an "high". According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC, while cannabis plants containing more than 0.3% THC are considered marijuana.

Hemp plant parts are generally known for their uses for medicinal purposes. These parts may also be extracted into their derivatives to meet specific needs. These parts and derivatives include hemp seed, hemp oil, hemp flower, hemp hearts, and hemp milk.

Hemp seeds are the oval-shaped seeds obtained from the hemp plant. Hemp seeds are typically deshelled to reveal the kernels inside. When hemp seeds are deshelled, they are called hemp hearts. Regardless of their sizes, hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. These are considered good fats which help manage triglyceride, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels in the human body. Hemp seeds are good sources of magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, iron, and vitamin E. When hemp seeds are blended with water, the result is hemp milk. Hemp milk is safe for consumption, even for children.

Is Hemp Legal in Ohio?

Yes. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized states to run pilot programs governing hemp production. The federal government had limited oversight of these pilot programs, which allowed hemp cultivation for restricted scientific purposes. Under the 2014 bill, one of the approved hemp research aims was "market research". Several states exploited this permission to develop sophisticated programs regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp for various applications and products, including the sale of CBD products. Although the 2014 Farm Bill permitted states to establish industrial hemp research programs, the State of Ohio did not enact any laws to permit institutions of higher education and the department of agriculture to develop industrial hemp pilot programs.

The United States Congress went a step further at legalizing hemp in 2018 by enacting the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (also called the 2018 Farm Bill), which removed hemp from the federal list of controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act. With hemp no longer listed as a controlled substance, it became an agricultural product. The 2018 Farm Bill granted states primary authority to regulate the commercial cultivation and processing of hemp within specific federal guidelines.

In 2019, Ohio enacted its hemp law - SB 57, decriminalizing hemp and authorizing hemp cultivation in the state. Ohio Senate Bill 57, like the 2018 Farm Bill, removed hemp and hemp products from the definition of marijuana in Ohio law. The bill also prohibits the Ohio Board of Pharmacy from classifying hemp and its products as controlled substances and authorized the State Director of Agriculture to develop a plan for regulating hemp cultivation pending approval from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Ohio Senate Bill 57 also authorized Ohio's Director of Agriculture to develop hemp cultivation and processing licensing programs. While the program will not require residents to obtain licenses to sell, buy, or possess hemp, individuals interested in cultivating, harvesting, and storing hemp must get cultivation licenses, while those interested in converting hemp into hemp products would need to get processing licenses.

SB 57 permits retail businesses to sell hemp-derived products as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC and have had the products properly tested by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (which will ensure accurate labeling of hemp products). The legislation contains provisions allowing universities and colleges in Ohio to produce and process hemp for research purposes without needing to obtain hemp cultivation or processing licenses. To get hemp-related research studies approved, qualifying institutions must submit University Hemp Cultivation and Processing Research Applications to the Ohio Department of Agriculture pursuant to Section 928.02 of the Ohio Revised Code. Ohioans may cultivate hemp on their properties only if they have obtained hemp cultivation licenses from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Growing hemp for personal use is prohibited in Ohio.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Ohio?

All hemp products are legal in Ohio, provided they contain no more than 0.3% THC. Hemp products that residents may purchase include hemp-based dietary supplements, topicals, food items, tinctures, edibles, vape liquids, and capsules. Hemp buds are also legal in Ohio; although smoking hemp flowers is not prohibited, it is recommended that you exercise caution when smoking hemp buds. You should avoid smoking hemp flowers outdoors, in a motor vehicle, or on federal property.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Ohio?

Pursuant to the Ohio hemp law, Ohio municipalities do not have the authority to restrict the cultivation or processing of hemp within their jurisdictions. However, zoning restrictions may apply in determining the locations that may be approved for hemp cultivation and processing. Also, you are not required to inform the sheriff or local police about your hemp farm or processing facility location before locating it in any county in Ohio. After registering with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, this agency will share your field location and contact information with USDA and local law enforcement.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process in Ohio

To legally cultivate hemp in Ohio, you must obtain a hemp cultivation license from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) under the state hemp program. ODA also issues a hemp processor license for persons or entities looking to process hemp. Licensed hemp processors may possess, handle, or store hemp crops obtained from licensed cultivators and process harvested crops into hemp-based products. The ODA also issues non-university researcher and university licenses. A non-university researcher license permits a business planning to grow, handle, test, or store hemp for research purposes only. Hemp handled or stored by non-university researcher licensees may not be sold. The university license is issued to a researcher affiliated with an Ohio college or university intending to grow, handle, process, test, or store hemp for research purposes. The license excludes the licensee from selling the hemp handled or stored.

In order to apply for a hemp cultivator or processor license from the ODA, you must first create an Ohio ID account by visiting the Ohio ID portal. The account must be created in the name, email, and phone number of the individual applicant or the individual designated to sign on behalf of the business. After creating an account on the Ohio ID portal, visit the Ohio hemp license application portal to commence your license application.

You will be required to complete Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background checks before applying with the ODA. If key participants (such as a partner in a partnership or an individual with an executive or managerial control in a corporation) are listed on your application, such individuals must also consent to both criminal background checks. You may visit any Ohio WebCheck locations to obtain a background check. If you or a key participant have been convicted for any felony offense relating to a controlled drug in the past ten years, you will be disqualified.

Applications for hemp processor licenses are open all year in Ohio, while applications for hemp cultivation licenses are open from November 1 through March 31. For further information on completing hemp license applications in Ohio, contact the Ohio Hemp Program by emailing hemp@agri.ohio.gov or calling (614) 728-2101. You may also review the ODA New License Application Instructions for detailed guidance on completing hemp license applications in Ohio.

How Much Does a License to Grow or Process Hemp Cost in Ohio?

The application fee for a hemp cultivation or processing license is $100 in Ohio. However, a hemp cultivator must pay $500 annually per location for each hemp-growing site. An individual or entity processing raw grain or raw fiber must pay an annual $500 license fee. The annual license fee for a processor processing raw floral components is $3,000. The annual license fee for processing cannabinoids in animal and human food, cosmetics and personal care products, and supplements for each processing site is $500 for wholesale production and $250 for retail production. The licensing fees may be paid with a credit card, debit card, or an electronic check on the ODA hemp licensing portal. The Ohio hemp cultivation or processor license is valid for three years.

How to Grow Hemp in Ohio

Hemp produces three major types of crops: grain, fiber, and metabolites. Each type requires different cultivation and production techniques and practices. If you intend to plant hemp crops for fiber, the Ohio Department of Agriculture recommends seeding between mid and late May and using the grain drill planting method. For commercial cultivation, you should use fertilizers in this manner:

  • Nitrogen: 50-100 lbs. per acre
  • Phosphorus: 45-60 lbs. per acre
  • Potassium: 35-100 lbs. per acre

The recommended planting density is 1.3-1.524 million live seeds per acre or 30-35 seeds per square feet. The harvest time for hemp grown for fiber is between mid August and late August. You should harvest when the male plants begin to release pollen or flowers but before the females enter the flowering phase.

If you are planting hemp for grain or seeds, the ODA-recommended period for planting is late May to late June. Other planting techniques include:

  • Planting method: Grain drill
  • Planting density: 435,000 - 653,000 live seeds per acre or 10-15 seeds per square feet
  • Fertility: Nitrogen: 100-130 lbs. per acre
  • Phosphorus: 45-75 lbs. per acre
  • Potassium: 35-100 lbs. per acre
  • Harvest time: The harvest period for hemp cultivated for grain is between early September and early October. You should harvest when the bracts are half to full brown and avoid letting the bracts around the seeds open to prevent loss of seeds from the mother plants

If you are planting hemp for its extracts, you should plant the seeds between late May and mid June. Other recommended cultivation techniques include:

  • Planting method: Transplanter or by hand
  • Planting density: 1,000-2,500 plants per acre, using 4 x 4 - 6 x 6 (inches) spacing
  • Fertility:
  • Nitrogen: 50-100 lbs. per acre
  • Phosphorus: 45-60 lbs. per acre
  • Potassium: 35-100 lbs. per acre
  • Harvest time: The harvest period is between mid September and mid October. Hemp cultivated for metabolites is typically harvested 5-10 weeks after the flowers appear

For information on the approved pesticides that may be used in cultivating hemp crops in Ohio, visit the Hemp Pesticides list page of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Ohio?

Smokable hemp flowers are legal in Ohio. Ohio's hemp law contains no specific restrictions on smokable hemp. You can purchase smokable hemp flowers from reputable hemp shops and vape stores selling hemp products in Ohio. However, you may more readily find smokable hemp flowers in online stores. Ohio permits hemp businesses to ship hemp flowers to Ohio and places no limit on the amount of smokable hemp flowers that residents may buy.

Hemp vs. THC

THC is a compound in cannabis that has intoxicating effects on consumers. Hemp is a plant that contains only trace amounts of this compound. Per state and federal law, hemp and its products may not contain more than 0.3% THC. Hence, Ohioans can legally purchase and consume hemp-derived THC products if they do not contain more than the stipulated THC limit.

Hemp vs. CBD

Hemp is not the same as CBD. CBD or cannabidiol is a chemical compound contained in cannabis. Hence, it can be found in both hemp and marijuana plants. However, CBD is commonly derived from the hemp plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not cause a "high" in its users. According to a World Health Organization report, CBD has no effects indicative of dependence or abuse potential. Hemp-derived CBD products are legal and may be purchased in Ohio.

Hemp Applications

Hemp is a versatile crop that can be used to make:

  • Papers: For many years, hemp has been used to manufacture paper. Hemp paper outperforms tree-based paper in terms of decomposition resistance and strength. Hemp's long bast fibers produce high-quality, acid-free paper. In production, hemp papers use less chemicals and, after production, are less prone to yellowing than tree-based papers
  • Insulation and building materials: Natural fibers, such as hemp fibers, are a sustainable alternative to traditional synthetic fiber materials for various applications in building construction, owing to their hygrothermal properties. Hemp-based materials can be processed into a wide range of commercial products with densities ranging from concrete to wood to plastic. Aside from the environmental benefits of using plant matter, these materials benefit from the mechanical strength of hemp fibers
  • Composite and plastic alternatives: Hemp fibers are used not just for insulation but also to make composites in the automotive, furniture, and fashion industries. Because of their length and strength, bast fibers are desired for composite or biocomposite manufacture, while hurds, the byproducts of separating bast fibers from the stalk, are useful for particle board and biodegradable plastic production
  • Textile: For many years, hemp fiber has been used to make textiles, fabrics, ropes, yarns, carpets, and canvas. The fiber may be spun and then woven or knitted into various materials appropriate for long-lasting and comfortable garments. Hemp fiber is robust compared to other natural fibers such as cotton, flax, and nettle
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Ohio Hemp Overview