Industrial hemp: New regulations continue to open the market in Nevada

By Russell Wilhelm, Industrial Hemp program manager

Thanks to the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill and the 2015 Nevada Senate Bill (SB) 305, industrial hemp farming is legal in the state of Nevada under the supervision of the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s (NDA) research and development program. In 2017, Nevada SB 396 was also passed, which expanded regulations to allow for handling and manufacturing of hemp products and hemp seed within the research and development program.

Growing industrial hemp in Nevada

Since the program began in 2015, many producers across the state have participated in research trials, including:

  • the comparison of industrial hemp varieties to determine viability in Nevada climates.
  • assessment of water uptake to compare industrial hemp with other crops like alfalfa, wheat or corn.
  • exploration of best production practices for industrial hemp farming, involving plant spacing, planting depth and irrigation techniques.

Industrial hemp, which is a plant variety among the same species as marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.), contains a low concentration of Tetrahydrocannabidol (THC). THC is the chemical compound known for the hallucinogenic effects of marijuana, and industrial hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC. This means it cannot be used as a drug and is typically processed into textiles, fiber, forage and cosmetics. Hemp producers are required to have an annual inspection from the NDA, where sampling and analysis are conducted to ensure proper THC levels.

Manufacturing and handling hemp in Nevada

SB 396 has outlined regulations that now allow the NDA to certify industrial hemp handlers. A handling facility is defined as a facility that receives harvested industrial hemp for processing into commodities, products or agricultural hemp seed.

This means that under the provisions of SB 396, industrial hemp can be processed into fiber for use as textiles, refined into cosmetic products and extracted for products intended for human consumption, like cannabidiol (CBD oil, which does not produce a “high” like THC) or hemp-based protein supplements. Hemp can be processed by an NDA-licensed industrial hemp handler, and any sale of hemp-based commodities must be documented on chain of custody records.

Industrial hemp seed production is now legal in Nevada

One of the challenges the industrial hemp industry has seen is sourcing hemp seed. Because hemp is part of the Cannabis genus, importing seed is only done so with U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) oversight. Now that seed production is legal in Nevada, there will be more domestic options for Nevada hemp growers.

How the NDA supports industrial hemp research

The NDA’s commitment to the industrial hemp program is primarily to provide oversight and enforcement of state and federal regulations. We also support farmers’ interests and encourage a sustainable commodity that can benefit the Nevada economy. Under the research and development program, NDA staff provide multiple inspections per year and work closely with producers to achieve a viable crop that can be used for further research and development.

Russell Wilhelm has served the NDA as an agriculturist since 2015 and manages the Industrial Hemp program and the Seed Certification program. For more information or to apply for the Industrial Hemp program, please visit hemp.

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