According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is a cannabis plant containing no more than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) on a dry weight basis. Due to its low THC level, hemp does not produce the psychoactive effects often associated with marijuana consumption. Marijuana, an illegal substance in the U.S., usually contain high THC concentration. As a result, marijuana consumers often experience altered perceptions of time, intense confusion, and anxiety. Hemp and marijuana have similar physical attributes. However, a closer look will show that hemp plants are tall and slender, while marijuana plants are usually shorter and bushier with broader leaves.
Hemp and "industrial hemp" are frequently used interchangeably. Generally, hemp is versatile and can be used for medical and industrial purposes. It is called industrial hemp because of its industrial applications, such as the use of hemp fibers and stalks to produce paper and hempcrete. The unique properties of hemp fiber make it a useful raw material for making fabrics, ropes, carpets, and bags.
Hemp seeds are rich in essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, which are beneficial for heart health and brain function. Food products such as hemp hearts, hemp milk, and hemp oil are derivatives of hemp seed. Consuming these products in raw forms or adding them as supplements to regular meals is safe because they do not contain any cannabinoids. Hemp flower containing high amounts of CBD is also used to make hemp extract through CO2 extraction or ethanol extraction. Hemp extract has medicinal benefits and is usually sold as edibles, gummies, oils, tinctures, capsules, and topicals.
Yes, hemp is legal in Louisiana. The U.S. Congress passed the Agricultural Act of 2014, allowing universities and state departments of agriculture to conduct research pilot programs for hemp cultivation. These programs aimed to study the growth, cultivation, and marketing of hemp as an agricultural commodity. Under the pilot programs, hemp was defined as Cannabis sativa plants with a THC concentration below 0.3% on a dry weight basis. This threshold was established to differentiate hemp from marijuana, which typically contains higher levels of THC with psychoactive properties.
In 2018, the Hemp Farming Act legalized hemp for commercial purposes and removed it from the controlled substance schedules. Legal transportation of hemp within and outside Louisiana became legal under the federal hemp law. The Act also allowed Louisiana and other states to create individual hemp programs and regulations that align with federal law. Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was tasked with overseeing the regulation and implementation of hemp production. Louisiana set up its hemp program in 2019 after the passage of House Bill 491. The hemp program, regulated by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF), provides licenses for hemp farmers and processors. Individuals or businesses interested in producing consumable hemp must obtain licenses from the Louisiana Department of Health.
Louisiana residents can purchase and consume hemp-derived products sold as tinctures, oils, soft gels, creams, and ointments. Adult-use consumable hemp products containing above 0.5% THC but not more than 1% THC are legal in Louisiana. To grow or process hemp into consumable and non-consumable products, residents must obtain licenses from the LDAF or Department of Health. Hemp retailers must also obtain permits from the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC). Smokable hemp flowers are illegal in Louisiana. Motorists found smoking hemp while operating their vehicles may face severe charges.
No, municipalities in Louisiana cannot restrict hemp cultivation, processing, and sales within their borders. However, residents of any municipality must comply with local zoning ordinances on hemp cultivation and processing.
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) issues licenses to growers, processors, and handlers of non-consumable hemp. Licenses for producing consumable hemp products can be obtained from the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).
LDAF Non-Consumable Hemp Licenses
To apply for non-consumable hemp growers, processors, or handlers licenses, interested persons must provide the following documents:
Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry
Industrial Hemp Program
5825 Florida Boulevard
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
LDH Consumable Hemp Processor Permit
Individuals interested in processing hemp into food or skincare products can apply to the LDH online. Documents necessary to complete the online application include the complete product list, processing/distribution plans, and maps of the proposed facilities for hemp processing.
All hemp licenses from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry cost $500. Applicants are required to pay the necessary fee after their applications have been approved by the LDAF. Louisiana hemp growers and processors licenses from the LDAF are valid for one year.
The fees for consumable hemp licenses issued by the LDH are computed based on the annual sales of applicants. Applicants can find the fee schedule listed under Louisiana Revised Statutes §3:1483. The LDH accepts money orders, cashier's checks, and online payments.
After getting LDAF growers licenses, hemp farmers in Louisiana can go about growing their hemp plants by taking the following steps:
Hemp usually thrives in a temperate climate with temperatures between 60-80°F (15-27°C). As a result, outdoor growers should plant hemp seeds where there are at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. With constant sunlight and monitoring, the hemp seeds should begin to sprout after one week. Before harvesting, the LDAF must approve harvesting reports submitted by licensed hemp farmers.
Louisiana prohibits the sale and possession of smokable hemp flowers. Licensed hemp retailers often sell other hemp products, such as oils, tinctures, and topicals.
Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, while THC is a popular cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. THC generally produces psychoactive effects when consumed. However, hemp contains 0.3% THC or less and does not produce the intoxicating sensations associated with marijuana plants. In Louisiana, hemp is legal for industrial and consumption purposes. High-THC products are only available for patients registered under the state’s Medical Marijuana Program.
Hemp typically contains high amounts of CBD in nature. Meanwhile, CBD is one of the numerous chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. CBD does not produce psychoactive effects. However, some marijuana-derived CBD products may contain enough THC that may lead to euphoria and anxiety. Generally, hemp CBD is legal in Louisiana, while marijuana-based CBD products are only legal for eligible patients in the state.
Hemp serves many purposes, especially in the healthcare sector. Other industries in Louisiana, such as construction, clothing, and auto industry, can benefit from hemp products. For instance, hemp biodiesel, a product made from pressed hemp seed oil, is an alternative to petroleum-based diesel fuel. The environmentally-friendly hemp biodiesel is less flammable, and it is biodegradable. It was used as the source of fuel in the famous Henry Ford’s Cannabis Car.
Hemp fiber is also a good source of hemp fabric used to produce durable clothing materials such as shirts, upholstery, tablecloths, and dish towels. In the construction industry, hemp stalk is often mixed with lime and water to form hempcrete. Hempcrete is recommended for buildings in earthquake-prone areas. Its low density makes it resistant to cracking and suitable for insulating walls and subfloors.
Hemp is also used to produce hemp paper. Manufacturers use the pulp derived from hemp fibers to make specialty papers, such as business cards and planners. Tea bags and Bible papers can also be made from hemp paper.