The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) legalized hemp by removing the crop and its derivatives from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and by providing a detailed framework for the cultivation of hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill gives the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulatory authority over hemp cultivation at the federal level. In turn, states have the option to maintain primary regulatory authority over the crop cultivated within their borders by submitting a plan to the USDA.
This federal and state interplay has resulted in many legislative and regulatory changes at the state level. Indeed, most states have introduced (and adopted) bills that would authorize the commercial production of hemp within their borders. A smaller but growing number of states also regulate the sale of products derived from hemp.
In light of the rapidly evolving legislative changes, we are also presenting a 50-state series analyzing how each jurisdiction treats hemp-derived cannabidiol (Hemp CBD). Today we turn to Alabama.
2014 Farm Bill Industrial Hemp Program. In 2016, Alabama enacted the Alabama Industrial Hemp research Program Act, (“Act”), which gave the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (“ADAI”) the authority over the production of industrial hemp and hemp products. In Alabama, industrial hemp is defined as “[a]ll parts and varieties of the plant Cannabis sativa, cultivated or possessed by a licensed grower, whether growing or not, that contain a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” The term “industrial hemp” excludes marijuana. “Hemp products” are “[a]ny and all products made from industrial hemp, including, but not limited to, cloth, cordage, fiber, food, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard, plastics, seed, seed meal and seed oil for consumption, and seed for cultivation if the seeds originate from industrial hemp varieties.” (Emphasis added).
ADAI rules do not explicitly address hemp processing or issue hemp processor licenses. Therefore, it is unclear whether a license or a permit is required to manufacture and sell Hemp-CBD products. The rules are also silent on the sale of Hemp-CBD products manufactured in Alabama or elsewhere.
However, shortly before the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill, Alabama’s Attorney General issued a Public Notice stating that “CBD derived from industrial hemp, with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis, can be legally produced, sold, and possessed in the State of Alabama.” Accordingly, there seems to be no direct limitation regarding the sale and possession of Hemp-CBD products in the state, so long as the products contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis.
2018 Farm Bill Plan. On May 30, 2019, state lawmakers passed SB 225, which tasked ADAI with developing a plan to monitor and regulate the commercial production of hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill. ADAI will need to review and amend its existing rules, adopted pursuant to the Act , to comply with the requirements of the 2018 Farm Bill. In addition, ADAI will need to promulgate rules that account for the commercial sale of Hemp-CBD products. According to its FAQs, ADAI anticipates releasing these rules within a year.
Bottom Line. This may come as a shock due to Alabama’s general hostility towards cannabis in the past, but when it comes to policy, it is one of the most hemp-friendly states in the country. The state Attorney General has expressly allowed the production, sale and possession of Hemp-CBD products and under Alabama’s new legislation, the ADAI will oversee these commercial activities. The future looks bright for hemp in Alabama.