Frequently asked questions regarding hemp

(As of Dec. 18, 2018)
For any other questions, please email hemp@nmda.nmsu.edu

I. General Regulatory Questions:

Q. Does an individual or business need a license to grow hemp in New Mexico?

A. Yes. State and federal law require oversight of hemp production to ensure cannabis plants being grown meet the state and federal definition of hemp (≤.3% THC). In New Mexico, if you grow hemp, you, as an individual, and your growing location must be registered with New Mexico Department of Agriculture through a licensing program.

Q. Language in the 2018 Farm Bill removes hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list. Will changes in the 2018 Farm Bill impact hemp regulations in New Mexico?

A. As New Mexico Department of Agriculture interprets the hemp language in the 2018 Farm Bill, each state is required to have a USDA approved regulatory plan that provides oversight of that state’s hemp industry. States that operate without an approved hemp plan may be excluded from benefits provided to hemp growers under several federal programs, including crop insurance, government backed loans, and use of federal project water for irrigation purposes. Implementation of federal hemp laws may result in minor changes in New Mexico’s regulations and operating policies.

Q.Does New Mexico limit the number of hemp licensees in the state or number of plants or acres?

A. No, New Mexico does not limit the number of licenses, plants or acres in the state.

Q. Who oversees the CBD (cannabidiol) extraction business in New Mexico?

A. As of this date, no state agency has been assigned specific regulatory responsibility regarding businesses involved in the extraction of compounds from hemp. Other state and federal agencies may have general oversight of activities associated with a business, i.e. labor, sanitation.

Q. What if plants or fields exceed the .3% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) level? Can it be used for other purpose, i.e. livestock feed, manufacturing?

A. Under the current statute, cannabis that exceeds the .3% THC level is no longer considered hemp and therefore excluded from those legal uses of hemp. Cannabis, in excess of .3% THC and grown under a hemp licenses, will be required to be destroyed. A grower with a hemp field that exceeds .3% THC may work with a New Mexico Department of Agriculture inspector to determine if a subsequent test to determine THC levels may have different results.

Q. How is THC determined?

A. Farm Bill language states a decarboxylation method in testing cannabis for THC. This method is similar to the one used in the state to test medical marijuana for THC levels.

Q. Are there pesticides registered for use in cannabis, including hemp in New Mexico?

A. As of this date, EPA has not approved any pesticides for use in cannabis, including hemp. In general, the registration of pesticides in the cannabis industry has been addressed at the state level. New Mexico Department of Agriculture understands the difficulty some hemp producers may face regarding disease and arthropod management and will be working with the cannabis industry on the development of an approved pesticide list.

Q.Why is/was the Continuous Production License made available before the January 1 date found in the Hemp Cultivation Rule?

A. New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte received a number of requests from the hemp stakeholders industry to implement an exemption to the Jan. 1, 2019 promulgation date stated in rule. Stakeholders justified the exemption based on the need for those individuals/businesses that will be producing clones for spring planting need the additional time to help ensure adequate numbers of clones would be available. Secretary Witte reviewed the request and granted the exemption to those involved in clonal production.

Q. When will the Annual Hemp Production application be available?

A. The Annual Hemp Production license application should be available the first week of January 2019.

Q. What documents do I need to transport hemp in the state?

A. Once laboratory results have been reviewed by New Mexico Department of Agriculture staff, a harvest license will be issued for that crop noting that it meets the definition of hemp.

 Q. Can New Mexico Department of Agriculture certify my hemp as organic?

A. At this time, the department is awaiting direction from USDA regarding inclusion of hemp in the organic certification program.

II. Continuous and Annual Hemp Production Applications:

Q. What is the difference between a Continuous Production License and an Annual Production License?

A. The continuous production license is directed at those businesses/individuals that will maintain viable hemp plants throughout the year. These businesses include those using mother plants for clonal production as well as those businesses maintaining viable hemp plants to harvest for CBD extraction and for seed production.

The annual production license is directed at those hemp producers that will be producing an annual crop and have no need to maintain viable plants throughout the year.

Q. Why is there a difference in licensing fees between annual and the continuous license applications?

A. As a solely based fee-supported program, New Mexico Department of Agriculture anticipates that those growing locations that maintain viable plants throughout the year will require additional inspections. The department structured fees to reflect the cost of these additional inspections related to continuous production rather than spread those costs to include annual hemp producers.

Q. If I double my hemp crop, do I need to apply for another license?

A. Yes, if varieties are available to allow for double cropping, you will need a separate license for each crop. Background check information, which was submitted for a previous license, can be resubmitted for another license if completed within a 12-month period.

Q. Both the Continuous and Annual Production license require background checks, can you explain the reasons and the process?

A. Although New Mexico does not require background checks, language contained within the 2018 Farm Bill does require state and federal background checks for persons growing hemp. State background checks will have to be conducted by the individual applying for a hemp production license. A New Mexico Department of Safety background request form has been attached to hemp production applications for convenience. Applicants can obtain state background check records by either submitting a completed background check request form and payment, in person, to the Department of Public Safety in Santa Fe or having the form notarized and mailing the form and payment to the Department of Public Safety in Santa Fe. Requests that are mailed in may take several weeks for the Department of Public Safety to process. In either case, the applicant is responsible for enclosing state background records, with the hemp production application and application fees prior to mailing to New Mexico Department of Agriculture. New Mexico Department of Agriculture will process the federal background request.

Q. How will inspections be conducted?

A. In the case of annual hemp production, it is the responsibility of the licensee to notify New Mexico Department of Agriculture of a possible harvest date. Notification should be submitted to allow time for scheduling an inspector visit, delivery of samples to a testing laboratory (responsibility of the producer), laboratory testing, and for the department to review and issue a harvest certificate following a review of the laboratory findings.

In the case of those businesses/individuals that maintain hemp plants throughout the year, the inspector will work with the licensee on timing the inspections to help ensure plants meet the definition of hemp. 

Although subject to change, the following sampling procedures will be used:

Pre-harvest samples for hemp grown for CBD: A department inspector will work with the licensee to collect a representative sample from each variety/cultivar grown within an area. Plant samples will be removed from the top five inches of the plant, including floral material; placed in a paper bag that will be sealed with security tape; and then inserted into a vented security bag.

Pre-harvest samples for hemp grown for seed: A department inspector will work with the licensee to collect a representative seed sample from each variety/cultivar grown within an area. Seed samples will be taken at the soft to medium dough stage; placed in a small paper bag that will be sealed with security tape and inserted into a vented security bag.

Sampling for clonal production: A department inspector will work with the applicant on an individual sampling methodology to ensue plants are compliant with the definition of hemp.

Samples from individual varieties/cultivars will be kept separate. The licensee will be responsible for transportation of the sample to an approved laboratory. In the case of multiple growing areas under a single license, varieties/cultivars from each growing area will be sampled and tested.

Q. Why is a grower required to transport hemp to an approved laboratory for THC testing?

A. Federal law is not clear regarding the transportation of cannabis material, especially of unknown THC content, through inland U.S. Customs and Border Protection ports. Due to the number of ports in the southern part of the state, department policy currently prohibits the movement and handling of cannabis material by staff until U.S. Customs and Border Protection policy addresses the issue. Growers may elect to use one of the courier services that was established to support the medical marijuana industry.

Q. What happens if a licensee harvests prior to a obtaining a harvest certificate?

A. The license holder is subject to suspension or revocation of their license. If the harvested product exceeds .3% THC, an order will be issued to locate and stop processing the product. Law enforcement may also be notified of the existence of a non-compliant product in the market place.

Q. What are additional fees referenced in the applications?

A. The department’s fee structure was established to cover a limited number of inspections by staff. In the event a laboratory sample notes a variety in excess of the .3% THC, the licensee may request a subsequent sample be taken and submitted to a laboratory for testing. The licensee would be responsible for costs associated with the travel and time expended by department staff for that second inspection. In general, additional fees would apply when department staff are required to address non-compliant issues.

Q. The applications refer to business address. Do I have to be a registered business to qualify for a hemp license?

A. The application is available to both businesses and individuals.

Q. Can I use my business name as the applicant?

A. No, we must have the name of the individual that will be responsible for the production and that is the owner of the property. If the applicant is not the owner of the property, the applicant will need to provide authorization from the landowner to grow hemp on that specific property.

Q. Why does a hemp crop have to be planted within a two-week period under one license?

A. Staggered plantings, over an extended time period may result in staggered harvests and therefore multiple visits by department staff to validate THC content. As a fee-based program, the department believed a fee structure that was based on individual services, rather than spreading program costs across the industry was unbiased. A separate license and fee for extended plantings helps ensure department costs are covered.

III. General Industry Basics:

Q. Where are the markets for raw hemp?

A. Currently, the industry demand for raw hemp is primarily for extraction of CBD. Understand that hemp varieties are available for low THC levels and excellent fiber production; low THC levels and high CBD oil production; and dual-purpose varieties with desirable fiber and CBD qualities. Before planting, be sure you have someone to extract the CBD; determine if they require only bud and flower for extraction or can take the whole plant; and identify a buyer for CBD. Although there are no brick and mortar decortication plants in New Mexico (used to extract fiber from hemp) at this time, there may be a number of portable units available in Colorado that can produce a limited amount of fiber.

Q. Where do I buy hemp seed or clones?

A. New Mexico businesses involved in the production of hemp seeds, seedlings and clones are in the process of increasing the availability of material in anticipation of spring planting by growers. Each will have hemp varieties that are common in the market place, or may be specifically derived by that specific business. We suggest checking the internet periodically to locate a source for your planting material.

Q. Does the purchase of a hemp variety guarantee that the plant will remain below the .3% THC level?

A. No, THC (THCa) concentrations are determined both genetically and environmentally, including agronomic practices. Most hemp growers test for THC content every two-to-three weeks.

Q. Is CBD found throughout the hemp plant?

A. Yes, but very little is found in the stalk and leaves compared to the flower structures.

Q. What are the risks to growers if they plant hemp?

A. The primary risk is the crop will exceed the .3% THC and have to be destroyed. Estimated production costs can vary from $4,000 per acre up to $8,000 per acre, depending on seed, seedling and clone varieties selected and on general production costs including weed management and harvest.

Q. Is there a state industry organization for hemp?

A. New Mexico Hemp Association (newmexicohempassociation.org)

Q. Can I feed hemp to my livestock?

A. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has not approved hemp as a feed or feed additive for use in commercial livestock, therefore, we will not address the advantages or disadvantages of feeding hemp to livestock at this time.

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