On September 11, 2019, the California Assembly approved SB-153, a bill aimed at making significant changes to California’s hemp cultivation law. As of September 13, 2019, the bill moved to “enrolled” status, meaning that it’s cleared both houses of the California legislature and will move to the Governor’s office for his signature. It is widely expected that the bill will be executed and become law.

So what does SB-153 change exactly?  Here are some of SB-153’s important provisions:

  • The bill adds a new definition of “industrial hemp”.  If the bill becomes law, then there will be separate (and slightly different) definitions for hemp generally under the California Health and Safety Code, and now under the Food and Agriculture Code relative just to hemp cultivation.
  • California will be required to submit a 2018 Farm Bill-compliant hemp production plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by May 2020. This is required under federal law, in order for states to comply with the 2018 Farm Bill. We still are awaiting USDA regulations to see how the submission process will work, but CA is now locked into submitting a plan.
  • SB-153 will narrow the scope of who qualifies as an established agricultural research institution (“EARIs”) to be more consistent with federal law.  Under current California hemp cultivation laws, the definition of EARIs is much broader than under federal law. SB-153 will, once the USDA approves of CA’s hemp production plan, narrow the scope of who qualifies as an EARI to be consistent with federal law.
  • California will mandate registration for commercial and non-commercial growers who don’t qualify as EARIs. Currently, only commercial growers must register. These modifications, in combination with the narrowed definition of EARIs, will require that some current hemp cultivators who qualify as EARIs will then need to register as non-commercial cultivators.
  • California will also mandate registration for EARIs and require them to submit “research plans” to their local county agricultural commissioner that detail what their cultivation operations will look like. This is a brand new concept that was not included in the original California Industrial Hemp Farming Act and is likely going to be a major change for cultivators across the state operating under research memoranda of understanding with EARIs.
  • The bill will create enforcement provisions, penalties for false statements on applications, and a bar on persons from being a part of the industrial hemp program if they had a conviction relating to controlled substances in the prior 10-year period.
  • SB-153 clarifies that hemp can’t be cultivated in a licensed cannabis premises, but that if it is, it will be considered cannabis.

We don’t yet know when the Governor will sign the bill, but if he does, this will be one of the most significant changes to California hemp cultivation laws since the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act was initially passed. Stay tuned to the Canna Law Blog for more updates on this new law.

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