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Frequently Asked Questions

On this page, we have compiled a list of answers to frequently asked questions about hemp production in New York State. Click on each question to reveal its answer.

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The Basics

Both hemp and marijuana are varieties of the plant Cannabis sativa that have been produced through selective breeding. Hemp has been bred to promote fiber, grain, and/or cannabidiol (CBD) production. On the other hand, marijuana has been bred to promote the production of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound. Legally, Cannabis must contain 0.3% or less THC by dry weight to be considered hemp. [Source]

Hemp can be grown and used for a virtually limitless number of applications. The plant was even described in 1938 by Popular Mechanics as having “over 25,000 uses . . . ranging from dynamite to cellophane.” Historically, hemp was most widely grown for its fiber; notably rope and fabric. Today, hemp fiber is used for insulation, pressboard, hempcrete, animal bedding, and certain plastics. Hemp seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, omegas, and many vitamins and minerals. They can be used in food and feed for livestock. They can also be pressed into oil for foods and cosmetics. Finally, female hemp flowers can be used for medicinal purposes. [Source] [Source]

Growing Hemp in New York State

Yes, with proper approval from the state. Following the 2014 Farm Bill’s passage, New York State created an Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program in 2015 to encourage hemp research. This pilot program made growing hemp for research purposes legal. Initially, the program only allowed a limited number of educational institutions to grow hemp. Then, in 2017, New York expanded the pilot program to allow farmers and businesses to grow and process hemp.

Today, individuals, businesses, and cooperatives can grow hemp as research partners with New York’s industrial hemp pilot program.

Individuals and businesses must submit a hemp grower application to the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets and receive an Industrial Hemp Research Partner Authorization document before they are allowed to grow hemp.

Cooperatives interested in growing hemp must first submit an official letter of interest to the NYS Dept. of Ag. & Markets.

Growing hemp in compliance with New York State laws requires a great deal planning ahead of time. First, read this hemp program guidance document from the NYS Dept. of Ag. & Markets. It contains valuable information about:

  • Hemp laws,
  • The NYS pilot program,
  • The grower application process,
  • How to renew your research partner authorization,
  • Monitoring hemp fields for THC and CBD compliance, and
  • Annual reporting requirements.

Also, we recommend checking out the links on our hemp growers’ resources page, along with this guide to beginning hemp, from Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Then, if you’re an individual grower or business interested in applying to grow hemp in New York, you’ll need to complete a hemp grower application. This requires you to:

  • Provide GPS coordinates and map(s) of the field(s) you intend to grow hemp in.
  • Describe your background experience that would pertain to hemp production.
  • Create a hemp research plan. This could be focused on fiber, grain, food product, seed, transplant, and/or CBD production.
  • Identify the hemp varieties you intend to plant, and where you’ll buy your seeds.
  • Describe security measures you’ll take to ensure your hemp crop is not used in violation of requirements outlined in the Research Partner Agreement.
  • Provide the names and letters of intent from the processors who will purchase your hemp crop.

Yes. Individuals and businesses must submit a hemp grower application to the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets and receive an Industrial Hemp Research Partner Authorization document before they are allowed to grow hemp. 

Cooperatives interested in growing hemp must first submit an official letter of interest to the NYS Dept. of Ag. & Markets.

Once a hemp grower or processor has been approved to participate in New York’s pilot program, their Industrial Hemp Research Partner Authorization document is valid for 3 years. To renew, research partners must resubmit their hemp grower application.

We are not aware of any such restrictions in New York State. However, we recommend you check with the NYS Dept. of Ag. & Markets before planting your hemp crop. After planting, notify local law enforcement of your legal hemp operation. It may also be wise to place “No Trespassing” signs around each of your hemp fields.

Orange County CCE maintains a list of buyers and sellers of hemp on its exchange board. For more information, read about the program on our hemp growers’ resources page.

Hemp Agronomy

For information on how to grow hemp, please refer to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance’s comprehensive Hemp Production eGuide.

Currently, Cornell University does not offer classes in hemp production. However, you can learn about hemp production by watching the videos of our past field days and attending one of our upcoming field days or other events.

To browse upcoming Cornell Cooperative Extension events featuring hemp production, search for ‘hemp’ on events.cornell.edu.

If you’d like email notifications of future hemp events from Cornell, log on to the Cornell University Events Emailer to set up automatic notification of upcoming events using the search term ‘hemp’.

To receive periodic email updates from this website, enter your email in the grey “stay in the loop!” box on either the right side or bottom of our website.

Yes. The Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance States that “hemp fits within typical crop rotation systems.” For more information, refer to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance’s Hemp Production eGuide.

Yes. Hemp removes a large amount of nitrogen and phosphate from the soil. For information on fertilizing hemp, see the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance’s Hemp Production eGuide.

Currently, there are almost no options for pesticide use in organic or conventional production. However, Cornell scientists are working with Federal and State agencies to identify effective products that may be labeled for hemp in the future.

Nonetheless, for weed control, one could try the stale seedbed technique. This practice allows weed seedlings to emerge for several days to 4 weeks after the field has been fitted for seeding. After significant weed emergence and before they are too large, the weed cover is removed. The possible methods of removal are somewhat limited for hemp:

  • The post-emergence herbicide SUPPRESS is labeled for this type of use on food and fiber crops. SUPPRESS is OMRI approved as an organic herbicide. However, it only works well on small broadleaf weeds. Its cost may be prohibitive.
  • Propane flaming
  • Light surface cultivation.

The weed removal operation should then be followed with direct seeding of the hemp crop without further soil disturbance. Even in the best of circumstances, this will not provide 100% weed control, but it can reduce the initial weed growth so that a vigorous crop can outpace the weeds.

Yes, hemp can be grown organically in organic fields just like any other crop. As of August 2016, The USDA’s National Organic Program will certify hemp as organic if the hemp is produced following (1) the 2014 Farm Bill, and (2), USDA organic regulations. [Source]

Hemp for grain and fiber can be planted with any grain drill. When harvesting hemp, producers must take care to minimize wrapping. For information about combining hemp, see the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance’s Production eGuide

Feminized seeds refer to female dioecious seeds. Plants grown from dioecious seeds will be either distinctly male or female. Hemp plants optimized for CBD production will not put out male flowers. Thus, in a CBD-producing operation, it is important that we only grow female plants. Feminized seeds are expensive because the processes used to produce them is highly specialized. [Source]

For a list of suppliers that sell hemp seed, please visit our hemp growers’ resources page.

While no New York companies produced hemp seed during the 2018 season, a framework exists for future production of certified seeds. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has adopted the American Organization of Seed Certifying Agencies’ (AOSCA) seed certification standards, paving the way for certified hemp seed production in 2019. Please note there is no requirement to use certified seed when growing hemp. [Source]

Certified seed must be at least 98% pure seed and have a germination rate of at least 80%.

However, if the grower purchases seed that is not certified, there are no current standards. Cornell University’s hemp program has purchased non-certified seed lots that were less than 40% pure seed or had a germination rate of less than 30%! This a buyer-beware situation. 

THC and CBD

  • THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive compound present in Cannabis plants. It is the chemical component of marijuana that produces a “high.”
  • CBD (cannabidiol) is another chemical found in Cannabis Unlike THC, CBD does not produce a “high” in those who consume the compound. Evidence suggests CBD may be a promising treatment for conditions including epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. [Source]

Legally, hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. [Source]

Below is an explanation from Dr. Ernest Small, Ph.D., F.L.S., C.M. He is the Principal Research Scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, within the Science and Technology Branch, at the Ottawa Research and Development Centre.

I repeatedly am asked to explain the history of the 0.3% THC figure for distinguishing hemp and marijuana, and the following is the response I provide.

The 0.3% dry weight figure originated from: Small, E., and Cronquist, A. 1976. A practical and natural taxonomy for Cannabis. Taxon 25: 405-435.

In that paper, we defined Cannabis sativa subsp. sativa as “Plants of limited intoxicant ability, Δ9-THC comprising less than 0.3% (dry weight) of upper, younger leaves, and usually less than half of cannabinoids of resin”;

and Cannabis sativa subsp. indica as “Plants of considerable intoxicant ability, Δ9-THC comprising more than  0.3% (dry weight) of upper, younger leaves, and frequently more than half of cannabinoids of resin”.

This information was subsequently interpreted in Canada’s legislation  as the basis of setting the limit for THC development in hemp cultivars as 0.3% THC, based on: “”The entire, fruit-bearing part of the plant shall be used as a sample… normally the top one-third of the plant … when the first seeds of 50% of the plants are resistant to compression”). Similarly, many countries throughout the world used 0.3% as a THC criterion for separating “industrial hemp” from “marijuana”.

The 0.3% figure was based on my previous analyses of THC content in thousands of plants:

  • Small, E., and Beckstead, H.D. 1973. Common cannabinoid phenotypes in 350 stocks of Lloydia 35: 144-165.
  • Small, E., and Beckstead, H.D. 1973. Cannabinoid phenotypes inCannabis. Nature 245: 147-148.
  • Small, E., Beckstead, H.D., and Chan, A. 1975. The evolution of cannabinoid phenotypes inCannabis. Econ. Bot. 29: 219-232.
  • and on mathematical analysis of the frequency pattern of cannabinoid distribution:
  • Small, E., Jui, P., and Lefkovitch, L.P. 1976. A numerical taxonomic analysis ofCannabis with special reference to species delimitation. Syst. Bot. 1: 67-84.

Over the years, I have had many inquiries regarding whether the 0.3% criterion was based on potential for abuse – i.e. the possibility of using hemp to get high.

No, it was not – the criterion was based on the pattern of variation in the real world: it happens that for thousands of years people have selected plants for fiber (subsp. sativa; low-intoxicant plants) and for marijuana (subsp. indica; high-intoxicant plants), and my studies simply revealed this pattern.

Nevertheless, the 0.3% criterion has indeed served as a criterion for authorizing the growth of plants with extremely limited potential for abuse.

In fact, it is often pointed out that cannabis material of about 1% THC is, for practical purposes, necessary for people to be willing to smoke it to get high.

Accordingly, the 0.3% figure is quite conservative for purposes of limiting the abuse potential of hemp for production of marijuana-like material.

To recap, the 0.3% THC figure originated on the basis of botanical classificatory considerations that reflect the real-world selection of two classes of plant – one used for fiber (and low in THC) and the other used for drugs (and of course high in THC).

As you appreciate, the figure reflects total THC (THCA + THC). The criterion was in effect determined by observation of the frequency distribution of THC in hundreds of samples of different kinds of plants (technically, by observation of the frequency of THC and correlation with other classificatory characteristics), not for legal-control purposes, but simply as an exercise in biological classification, such as is commonly done in my discipline (taxonomy). The criterion was subsequently adopted to control cultivation of high-THC plants.

I have had considerable experience with those who prepare or modify drug legislation, and while the general intent is understood, scientific (i.e. factual) subtleties are often not understood. Nevertheless, hopefully the final legislation achieves the intended goal.

In the case of cannabis, the goal obviously of the widespread adoption of the 0.3% figure has been the assumption that it serves to limit the “abuse potential” of plants grown for “industrial” purposes. So, in reflection, the criterion has proven to be reasonable for the intended purpose, regardless of how well the framers of legislation understood the information I’ve provided above.

Currently, the 0.3% criterion is somewhat of an impediment to the CBD industry (and therefore to the “hemp industry” which is increasingly turning to CBD), since few cultivars/strains are available that can produce high levels of CBD without exceeding the criterion. This is unfortunate, particularly where the THC levels are under 1%, and therefore the abuse potential is still limited. However, this is an issue for legislators to consider, and given the conservative nature of legislation concerning drugs considered to have abuse potential, is unlikely to be modified in the near future.

Nothing in the above should be taken as an indication of how to interpret legislation in particular jurisdictions, since circumstances often differ and interpretations are often guided by different considerations.

For an up-to-date list of labs that test for THC, please visit our hemp grower’s resources page.

According to the NYS Dept. of Ag. & Markets, growers must dispose of any hemp that contains more than 0.3% THC by dry weight. [Source]

Hemp and the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018

Under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), the federal government classifies hemp and marijuana as two distinct plants. Hemp is no longer classified as a controlled substance; it is recognized as an agricultural crop. Now, hemp plants, seeds, and products can move freely across state lines. [Source]

No. States and tribal nations will continue to regulate the production of hemp within their jurisdictions. Hemp must still be tested to ensure it meets legal THC limits. [Source]

Cornell’s Hemp Research Program

At this time, there is no tax on growing hemp. The only fees associated with growing hemp are:

  • The $500 application fee to grow hemp as a research partner with New York’s industrial hemp pilot program.
  • Any sales or income taxes from selling the final crop, just as with the sales of any other agricultural crop.

Yes! At Cornell University, we are breeding varieties of hemp that have high levels of CBD while maintaining low levels of THC.

Miscellaneous

At this time, there is no tax on growing hemp. The only fees associated with growing hemp are:

  • The $500 application fee to grow hemp as a research partner with New York’s industrial hemp pilot program.
  • Any sales or income taxes from selling the final crop, just as with the sales of any other agricultural crop.

Yes! At Cornell University, we are breeding varieties of hemp that have high levels of CBD while maintaining low levels of THC.

Hemp primarily relies on wind for pollination. Its female flowers do not have nectaries to attract pollinators. However, in some cases, honeybees, bumblebees, and other native bees have been shown to visit male hemp flowers to collect pollen. [Source]

Hemp crop insurance is only being sold through private companies at this time, so check the price. Federally subsidized crop insurance is not yet on the market.

Before the federal government can implement subsidized crop insurance, the USDA Risk Management Agency needs to gather multiple years of county-level production data. This will take many years.

For more information, contact Cornell’s Jennifer Ifft from the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management


Please note: the authors of these questions and answers are not attorneys. They do not provide legal advice. Every effort has been made to provide useful and accurate information. Regardless, this information should not be relied upon in place of consultation with appropriate legal advisors in your jurisdiction. These questions and answers may not be current at the time of reading. The final regulations lie with the municipalities and agencies that oversee the implementation of the Farm Bill’s hemp provisions.

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