Arkansas Hemp Overview

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What is Hemp?

Hemp is the common name for the botanical species Cannabis sativa. It is cultivated for a wide variety of purposes: for its fiber, seeds, and flowers. Hemp and marijuana are closely related. In the U.S., there is a legal line separating hemp from marijuana. While hemp is a Cannabis sativa plant with a tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] level of 0.3% or less, marijuana is a Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant with a THC level that can be as high as 35%. THC is the compound that gives marijuana its strong, intoxicating effect. Hemp is a taller plant than marijuana, growing to a treelike height in some instances. Hemp leaves are darker and broader than marijuana leaves, although they are similar in shape.

Also called industrial hemp, it is grown specifically as a raw material for the processing of rope, paper, plastics, biofuel, and medicine. Special strains of hemp are bred to yield greater quantities of fiber, seed, or stalk, depending on the desired finished product. Farmers who cultivate industrial hemp purely for its fiber often prefer to plant the crop in dense rows to prevent it from forming flowers or branches. Farmers who cultivate industrial hemp for cannabidiol (CBD) opt to plant feminized seeds, which yield a crop with a high CBD percentage.

Hemp is a versatile plant because every part of it can be either consumed as food or processed into goods and medicines. Its parts and derivatives include the following:

  • Hemp seeds: Hemp seeds are eaten as a snack or added to breakfast cereals. They are known to be a good source of vital nutrients like proteins, vitamins, magnesium, and amino acids. Hemp seeds are also rich in antioxidants. They are not psychoactive because they contain only a minute amount of THC
  • Hemp flower: The flower is a vital part of the hemp plant. It exists in both male and female plants, but pollination of the female flower can lead to a reduction in the quantity of CBD it produces. Hemp flower is commonly smoked by patients seeking relief from seizures, anxiety, inflammation, and other medical conditions. It is rich in cannabinoids and terpenes
  • Hemp extract: Hemp extract refers to any solution which contains the entire flowers, leaves, seed, and stalk of the plant. It may be further refined to separate the different compounds or left intact to create what is known as effect. The entourage effect is the term for a hypothesis that the most therapeutic form of hemp extract is one that comprises all its cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids
  • Hemp oil: There are two types of hemp oil: there is hemp seed oil, which is processed using only the seeds of the plant, and there is hemp extract oil, which is processed using other parts of the plant, like the flowers and the leaves. Hemp seed oil does not contain CBD. Hemp extract oil contains the full range of cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and salts present in the hemp plant
  • Hemp hearts: When hemp seeds are shelled, their inner part is opened. This is known as the hemp heart. Hemp hearts do not contain CBD or THC, but they are rich in nutrients like vitamins, proteins, fats, and fiber. Hemp hearts are usually eaten as dietary additives
  • Hemp milk: Hemp milk is a beverage made by mixing hemp seeds and water together. It is consumed for its nutritional benefits and by people who want an alternative to dairy milk

Is Hemp Legal in Arkansas?

Hemp is legal in Arkansas. Hemp has had a long history in the United States. In 1970, the U.S. Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, which gave hemp the status of a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs are considered to have no medicinal benefits and are liable to abuse or addiction.

A sea-change in the federal attitude towards hemp began in 2014 when Congress passed the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2014, also called the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states with enabling laws to carry out research into hemp. Under this Bill, only university research programs and agricultural departments in states had the authority to engage in any hemp-related enterprise. Another condition was that they could only do so purely for scientific and not commercial purposes.

By 2018, there was further liberalizing legislation when the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, the 2018 Farm Bill, was passed by Congress. The 2018 Farm Bill made industrial hemp eligible for inclusion in federal research and agricultural insurance programs. It also allowed states and now American Indian territories and tribes to regulate industrial hemp production within their jurisdictions, subject to the approval of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Interstate hemp movement was also permitted.

In 1999, the Arkansas Senate passed SR 13, a bill that granted the University of Arkansas permission to research the prospects of industrial hemp and kenaf. SR 13 acknowledged that Arkansas had an agricultural economy and hemp cultivation could provide a viable alternative to existing cash crops.

The Arkansas Industrial Hemp Act was passed in 2017. It was enabled by Arkansas House Bill 1778, now known as Act 981. It set out to enable a hemp research program that would explore the potential economic benefits of industrial hemp cultivation and processing in the state. According to HB 1778, industrial hemp comprised the entirety of the Cannabis sativa plant. For industrial hemp to be considered legal in Arkansas, it had to be cultivated by licensed growers. Also, it had to have the legal THC limit of 0.3% or less. In adherence to the 2014 Farm Bill, Arkansas State Plant Board could collaborate with the University of Arkansas in any hemp-related research program under HB 1778.

Another significant Arkansas hemp law, HB 1640, was passed in 2021 to amend the state's hemp laws. It repealed the Arkansas Industrial Hemp Act of 2017. The bill removed authority for hemp regulation from the State Plant Board and handed it to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. HB 1640 was significant for industrial hemp farming in Arkansas because it enabled hemp growers to sell their produce to consumers. In keeping with the 2014 Farm Bill, the Arkansas State Plant Board had provided for farmers to sell only to research programs and licensed processors. Under HB 1640, Arkansas farmers can trade their hemp on the open market. In compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill, Arkansas permits hemp movement across its borders.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Arkansas?

All hemp-derived products are legal in Arkansas, provided they have a CBD content that adheres to the federally approved limit of 0.3% or less. Hemp products sold in Arkansas must contain neither raw plant material nor seed. They must also be made solely from industrial hemp and not from marijuana, which is still outlawed federally and in Arkansas. Only patients under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Program can legally access marijuana-derived THC or CBD products.

Residents of Arkansas can only cultivate hemp products if they have a license to do so. Drivers and truckers cannot smoke hemp while driving. Public smoking of hemp is also strictly prohibited.

Can a Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Arkansas?

There are no state laws in Arkansas that allow cities, townships, or counties to prevent individuals and business entities from growing industrial hemp within their borders. Hemp is grown in many of the 75 counties in Arkansas.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process Hemp in Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture makes it mandatory for any individual or business entity intending to cultivate or process hemp in the state to apply for a license. Licenses expire on June 30 every year and are renewable at that point. The Department of Agriculture issues hemp grower and processor licenses.

Applicants are also required to indicate what their hemp production focus will be. This will entail explaining whether the hemp will be cultivated for grain, fiber, or CBD production.

An Arkansas hemp license applicant is required to complete the appropriate Acrobat application form (Grower Application Form or Processor/Handler Application Form) on a PC and send it as an attachment with other documents via email to the Department of Agriculture.

All hemp license applications in Arkansas must be accompanied by a criminal history background check. The licensing authority in the state imposes this condition in order to ensure that no individuals convicted for drug-related offenses 10 years prior to their applications participate in the hemp industry. For business entities applying for hemp licenses, individual members of the board or executive must also undergo this criminal history background check. Applicants should file their requests for background checks with the Arkansas State Police.

Hemp license applicants in Arkansas must provide the Department of Agriculture with a legal description of the land on which they propose to grow industrial hemp. This description must include details such as the township in which the land is located, the range of the land, and the section of the land. Applicants must also include in their applications a photographed aerial map of the land. Hemp license applications in Arkansas are processed within 60 days of submission.

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

The State of Arkansas charges a non-refundable $50 processing fee for every hemp license application. The license fee costs $200. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture requires all prospective licensees to post-mail evidence of the $50 payment with the first page of their applications attached to:

Hemp Program

Arkansas Department of Agriculture

1 Natural Resources Drive

Little Rock, AR 72205

License renewals also attract a $200 fee.Successful Arkansas hemp licensees also face a set of additional fees:

  • Site modification fee: $200
  • Applied Acreage Fee: $50-$1000
  • GPS Verification Fee: $100
  • Applied Processor/Handler Fee: $500-$1500
  • Harvest Compliance Fee: $100

How to Grow Hemp in Arkansas

The first step in hemp cultivation in Arkansas is to obtain a Grower's license. Only after a license is granted can a farmer begin to plant hemp seeds in the soil. Hemp grows best on even land, so farmers endeavor to make their fields as flat as possible. Hemp seeds which are cultivated for use in CBD processing must be feminized, which means that they must not be capable of being pollinated. For grain and fiber cultivation, planting seeds will combine both male and female characteristics. Hemp seeds require moisture but do not thrive in soils that retain excess water.

Although hemp and marijuana are botanically related, they are cultivated differently from each other and for different purposes. Hemp is known to grow well in outdoor locations, while marijuana gives optimal yields when grown in greenhouses or indoors. Hemp is considered the more resilient of the two crops, as it adapts to vastly different soils and climates. Marijuana, on the other hand, requires controlled conditions to thrive. Many marijuana farmers prefer to cultivate only female marijuana plants, as they are guaranteed to yield more flowers and leaves, as opposed to seeds.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture recognizes three types of hemp cultivation in the state:

  • Fiber Production, which is focused on growing hemp strains high in fiber
  • Grain Seed Production, which focuses on growing hemp that will give a high seed harvest, and
  • Floral/Cannabinoid Production, which focuses on growing hemp strains high in CBD

HB 1778 made it mandatory for Arkansas hemp farmers to cultivate only Certified Seed. Certified Seed is guaranteed to conform to federal and state law by containing no more than 0.3% of THC. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture provides license holders with a Summary of Varieties list to enable them to choose the best hemp strains for cultivation.

Hemp farmers in Arkansas are not allowed to advertise their industrial hemp as 'organic' unless they have received a certification from a USDA-approved agent. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture maintains that organic hemp can only be cultivated on a farm that has been certified. Only certified organic processors can also handle organic hemp.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the use of pesticides on hemp. Hemp pesticides must be registered with the Pesticide Section of the Department of Agriculture in Arkansas. Hemp farmers in Arkansas must ensure that they only use pesticides specifically labeled for use on industrial hemp.

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Arkansas

The State of Arkansas allows residents to buy smokable hemp flowers. Hemp flower is available for sale and purchase in dispensaries, gas stations, groceries, and online. There are no limits on the amount of hemp flowers that an Arkansas resident can legally purchase. All hemp products, including hemp flower, must not contain more than 0.3% THC to be considered legal in Arkansas. Hemp flowers can be shipped into Arkansas from out of state.

Hemp vs THC

Hemp is a plant, while THC is a cannabinoid contained in the plant. THC is present in large quantities in marijuana. Hemp only contains trace amounts of THis C. THC content is what constitutes the legal dividing line between hemp and marijuana. Delta-8 THC is legal in Arkansas per HB 1640 of 2021.

Hemp vs CBD

Hemp is the plant, while CBD refers to the major cannabinoid contained in hemp. There are special hemp strains cultivated in order to extract CBD. These particular strains are bred to produce more flowers. Hemp-derived CBD products are taken for therapeutic purposes by individuals seeking to alleviate a wide range of medical conditions. It is legal to sell and purchase hemp-derived CBD products in Arkansas, provided they contain not more than 0.3% THC.

Hemp Applications

Industrial hemp has a wide range of uses. The Arkansas House Bill 1640 listed plastics, fuel, cloth, and paper, among other items, as finished goods made from hemp. Other uses and applications of hemp in Arkansas include:

  • Hemp biofuel: There are two types of hemp biofuels. There is hemp biodiesel, which is processed using hemp seed oil, and there is hemp ethanol/methanol, which is processed using the fermented stalk of the plant
  • Hemp plastics: Hemp-based plastics are made by pulping the hemp plant and extracting its cellulose compounds. Cellophane and rayon are two types of bioplastic material that can be made from hemp cellulose. Hemp-derived bioplastics are considered more ecologically beneficial because they are biodegradable. They are also lighter and more durable than plastics made from petroleum
  • Hemp paints: Hemp oil derived from the plant's seeds is oxidized and is a major ingredient in the making of some oil-based paints
  • CBD Oil: The main ingredient in the processing of CBD oil is hemp flower and leaves
  • Hemp flour: Hemp flour is made from the residue left after hemp seeds have been pressed for their oil. Hemp flour is used in baking as a substitute for wheat or other flours
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