Industrial hemp fell victim to the War on Drugs as this effort reached one of its early peaks. In December 1970, after a tiff with his wife and father over the $32,000 he spent on Christmas gifts, Elvis Presley flew to Washington and met President Richard Nixon at the White House. The King wanted Nixon to make him an undercover marshal. “I’m on your side,” he assured Nixon. As for his qualifications, Elvis said he was familiar with the “drug culture” as well as “Communist brainwashing techniques.” We aren’t sure what one has to do with the other.
Anyway, Nixon gave Elvis a ceremonial undercover badge, along with some White House broaches and cufflinks. The meeting remained secret until 1988. The Elvis/Nixon photo is still the most requested photograph in the history of the National Archives.
This story illustrates how surreal the War on Drugs was at that point. A few months earlier, Congress designated industrial hemp, which had been harvested for years, as a controlled substance. Previously, under the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, hemp was legal but subject to high taxation.
The legal environment has changed substantially in the last forty years. Today, many policymakers view marijuana and hemp as public health and safety matters as opposed to criminal matters. Perhaps more importantly to Marietta criminal defense attorneys, many Cobb County jurors share these sentiments. But that’s the subject of another blog.
What is Industrial Hemp?
In ancient China and Mesopotamia, hemp was a fiber and food source. Cultivation began in what later became the United States when European colonists arrived en masse in the seventeenth century. Shortly thereafter, farmers developed presses that extracted the CBD oil from hemp. The ancient Romans may have been the first people to use CBD for medicinal reasons.
Hemp cultivation and use probably reached its peak in the United States in 1941. That was the year automobile manufacturing pioneer Henry Ford unveiled a prototype car that ran on hemp. The cellulose care was also constructed primarily from hemp.
Unfortunately, Ford’s innovation was ill-timed. A few years earlier, Congress had passed the aforementioned Marijuana Tax Act, over the American Medical Association’s objection. The tax made Ford’s cellulose car prohibitively expensive, so it never went into production.
The federal government legalized hemp production in 2018. Georgia followed suit in 2019, with the Georgia Hemp Farming Act. Marijuana and hemp are both cannabis, so they are from the same family of plants. Marijuana has a high Tetrahydrocannabinol content. THC is the ingredient that makes people stoned. Hemp, on the other hand, has a high Cannabidiol content. CBD is an ingredient that has some pain relief and industrial properties.
Georgia’s law defines hemp as all or part of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, including the 55 seeds and all derivatives, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, extracts, and salts of 56 isomers.
Federal law defines hemp as cannabis with a THC concentration no higher than 0.3 percent. This THC content-based definition is very important for criminal law purposes, but again, this discussion is not particularly relevant to this blog.
Is it Legal to Cultivate Hemp in Georgia?
Technically, yes. The Georgia Hemp Farming Act removed basically all restrictions on hemp cultivation. But for the most part, this right is only theoretical. Only growers who are licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture can produce or process hemp. And, the GDA has yet to issue any such licenses, a fact that probably does not surprise many people.
However, there is one pilot program in place. Shortly after Governor Brian Kemp signed the GHFA, the University of Georgia planted twenty-four hemp varieties to see how they would grow in the Peach State. Tim Coolong and Rob Lee, the associate horticulture professors who supervise the program, predicted that hemp could be Georgia’s next cash crop.
How do I apply for a License?
No one will get a license until the GDA makes applicable rules. Hopefully, that will happen before the fall 2020 planting season. Here’s what we know so far:
- A cultivation license costs $50 per acre, up to a maximum of $5,000,
- A processing license costs an additional $25,000 per year, and
- Hemp cultivation areas must provide GPS coordinates to officials, and officials have the right to search these fields at random and destroy any plants which have excessive THC content.
As the pricing structure indicates, the processing is where the money is. Since most CBD Oil is in cannabis flowers, the UGA project hopes to determine which kinds of hemp plants produce the most flowers.
Can I Add CBD Oil to Food?
For personal reasons, yes. But for commercial reasons, no. True, there are a huge number of CBD food products in local stores. But the Food and Drug Administration has made it clear that such products are illegal. FDA inspectors must approve all foodstuffs sold in the United States. They have not inspected any CBD food products and, as of now, do not intend to do so.
On a related note, CBD health supplements and related products are probably illegal as well. When CBD was only semi-legal, the FDA did not say anything about pain relief claims or other health claims on these products. But now that hemp is legal everywhere, the crackdown has begun. If you sell CBD-infused products, you might be able to avoid trouble by including a “not FDA evaluated” disclaimer.
Contact a Dedicated Lawyer
When it fully takes effect, the Georgia Hemp Farming Act may be a game-changer for many Cobb County households. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We are available 24/7/365.