CA Farmers Lament Persistent Barriers to Industrial Hemp Cultivation

California would love to be top dog in the country’s budding industrial hemp industry. But, as this article from Natural Products Insider underscores, cultivators keep hitting roadblocks in the form of bureaucratic red tape.

That’s the case even since Gov. Jerry Brown’s singing of Senate Bill 1409, which authorized the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to implement industrial hemp pilot programs.

“We’ve asked the department in the past to get going with a pilot program, so we can be federally compliant as a state,” San Francisco attorney Patrick Goggin told Natural Products Insider. “They kind of pushed back, saying, ‘Well, we don’t have that authority.’”

Even now, following Brown’s signing of what hemp advocates described as a “cleanup bill,” commercial farmers haven’t got the green light from government officials to plant seeds in the ground.

“They’ve done nothing,” said Chris Boucher, a hemp farmer in Imperial Valley, California, referring to CDFA. “It’s just the biggest bureaucracy I’ve ever witnessed.”

Farmers are used to this sort of obstruction. They’ve been encountering it for years. But with the rest of the industry moving at lightening speed, patience is wearing thin.

As the article notes, among its provisions, Prop 64 was supposed to allow industrial hemp to be grown as an agricultural product, but it hasn’t really moved things along much either. The labs that are supposed to sign off on THC levels must be registered with the DEA. But “when the California Department of Food and Agriculture called the DEA, they’re like, ‘Where are your approved labs?” said Lawrence Serbin, chairman of the Industrial Hemp Advisory Board, as quoted by Natural Products Insider. “They’re [DEA] like, ‘We don’t have any. We don’t know what you’re talking about.’”

Prop 64, Serbin said, “tended to create a bit more problems and unanswered questions.”

SB 1409 was supposed to make things easier too by removing some of the restrictions surrounding hemp cultivation but, again, farmers have run into issues. They still have to register, but registrations haven’t yet been made available.

“The reason why hemp farming hasn’t really gotten off the ground in the state is because the department hasn’t issued and completed its rulemaking to set … the registration fee,” said Goggin.

Then, as with commercial cannabis, local governments sometimes get in the way.

As usual, government officials are asking for a little more patience.

“CDFA is proceeding deliberately in order to make this program as robust and comprehensive as possible,” Steve Lyle, director of public affairs for CDFA, told Natural Products Insider.

Just a little bit longer now.