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Feds release guidelines for hemp production prompting review by Georgia officials

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The hemp farming industry is one step closer to being established in Georgia, according to state officials.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture published the interim final rule for hemp production across the U.S. on Thursday. 

The federal government plans to start approving states’ plans within 60 days.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture submitted its plan for review on July 10, but it may need to modify what’s in it to comply with the new requirements.

Georgia officials said they are reviewing the guidelines and will amend the plan if needed.

Hemp is a strain of the cannabis plant that contains low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. Hemp can be harvested as seeds, fiber or cannabidiol oil. 

The federal government removed hemp from the controlled substances list in 2018 and approved interstate transportation and shipment of the crop.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the Georgia Hemp Farming Act in May based on the federal law. It makes it legal for farmers to grow the crop with up to 0.3 percent THC concentration.

The federal rule released Thursday includes standards for keeping track of land, testing levels, disposing of plants and licensing requirements.

Licenses must be obtained by both growers and processors. 

Legal descriptions, crop acreage and other geographical information about the land being used for hemp production must be reported to the USDA Farm Service Agency, the rule states.

Samples of the hemp must also be tested by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency 15 days before harvest. After 15 days, the THC potency of the plant could increase, the federal agency states.

The rule is effective until Nov. 1, 2021. 

“Once approved, Georgia will move swiftly to propose a final state rule that complies with U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program and the Georgia Hemp Farming Act,” Georgia officials wrote. “Following a 30 day comment period, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, Georgia’s rule will be finalized after posting a final notice for 20 days with the Georgia Secretary of State.”