Mississippi Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a plant from the Cannabis sativa family that may be used to manufacture a wide range of commercial and industrial items such as rope, textiles, and food. While hemp and industrial hemp are commonly used interchangeably, “industrial hemp” refers to hemp cultivated for fiber or industrial uses. In contrast, "hemp" refers to hemp plants cultivated for CBD or medicinal purposes.

Hemp is often mistaken for another similar plant - marijuana. However, hemp is not the same as marijuana. Both plants are from the cannabis family and may appear identical. While hemp and marijuana have similar appearances and aromas, they are chemically and physically distinct. The fundamental difference between the two is the concentration of THC, marijuana's principal psychotropic ingredient. According to federal law, hemp has a THC concentration of less than 0.3%, while marijuana has a THC content more than 0.3%.

Physically, there are other distinctions between marijuana and hemp plants. Marijuana plants have broader leaves and dense buds, while hemp plants have slender leaves that are concentrated towards the top of the plants. Furthermore, marijuana grows shorter and bushier, but hemp grows taller and skinnier.

Several parts of the hemp plant and its derivatives are used for various nutritional purposes. These parts and derivatives include hemp flowers, hemp seed, hemp oil, hemp extract, hemp hearts, and hemp milk. Hemp oil is obtained from crushing the hemp seed and is used to treat eczema, acne, and other skin conditions. Hemp hearts are sourced from hemp seeds that have had their shells removed. Hemp hearts help maintain proper heart functioning in users. Hemp milk is also obtained from hemp seed and is commonly used by persons who want an alternative to dairy milk. Hemp milk has anti-inflammatory properties and also helps maintain heart health. 

Is Hemp Legal in Mississippi?

Yes. The path to hemp legalization in Mississippi began with the federal Farm Bill in 2014. The 2014 Farm Bill defined hemp as cannabis containing no more than 0.3% THC and permitted higher education institutions and state departments of agriculture to cultivate hemp for agricultural and academic research purposes. The 2014 Farm Bill also permitted hemp production if the plant is grown or cultivated under an agricultural pilot program. In any permitted hemp production condition stated in the Bill, growing or cultivation may only happen if the state permits such hemp operations to occur within its jurisdiction.

In 2014, the Mississippi legislature enacted Harper Grace's Law (Section 41-29-136 of the Mississippi Code). The Harper Grace's Law permitted physicians to conduct clinical studies at the University of Mississippi Medical Center using cannabis extract oral solutions rich in CBD and low in THC. The studies sought to evaluate the safety of using low THC and high CBD cannabis extracts to treat patients with certain epileptic conditions without fear of prosecution for violating laws regarding the use and handling of a controlled substance. Harper Grace's Law also permitted the preparation of CBD solutions by other pharmacies or laboratories under the appropriate state and federal regulations.

In 2018, the United State Congress introduced the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the commercial production of hemp. The Bill removed hemp from the DEA's Schedule I Controlled substances list and required any state proposing to have primary regulatory authority over hemp production to submit a hemp production plan to the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA). To cultivate or produce hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill, the cultivator or producer must be authorized or licensed under a tribal hemp program, state hemp program, or the USDA hemp program.

In 2019, Mississippi created a Hemp Cultivation Task Force and mandated it to submit a comprehensive study on the potential of hemp cultivation in the state. The task force was also directed to examine and study the approaches taken by other states in monitoring and regulating hemp cultivation. Part of the task force’s brief included assessing the potential economic benefits of hemp cultivation, market potential, and job creation.

On June 29, 2020, Governor Tate Reeves signed SB 2725, also called the Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Act, into law. SB 2725 legalized the cultivation of hemp under a state plan established by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. Although the legislation authorized a state hemp farming program, the Mississippi Legislature did not approve the funds required to implement the program. Consequently, the only legal alternative for a producer in Mississippi to grow hemp is to get a hemp license from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the USDA Domestic Hemp Production Program. Hence Mississippians can cultivate hemp on their properties provided they have obtained hemp production licenses from the USDA and comply with other applicable USDA hemp cultivation laws. Note that under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp can be transported across state lines.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Mississippi?

All hemp products, including topicals, flowers, tinctures, and edibles, are legal in Mississippi, provided they contain no more than 0.3% THC. Although it is legal to smoke hemp in Mississippi, it is not recommended to smoke it publicly or while driving. While odor and appearance are no longer enough to establish probable cause, you may still experience some inconveniences from law enforcement officers who find it difficult to differentiate hemp from marijuana.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Mississippi?

Per SB 2725, a Mississippi county, municipality, or other political subdivision may not enact, adopt, or enforce an ordinance or order that prohibits or penalizes the cultivation, processing, or production of hemp within their jurisdictions.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process in Mississippi

The State of Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce does not issue hemp licenses to persons looking to cultivate or produce hemp in the state. In order to cultivate or process hemp in Mississippi, you must obtain a hemp production license from the United States Department of Agriculture under the USDA Domestic Hemp Production Program.

You may apply for a USDA hemp production license using the USDA Hemp eManagement Platform (HeMP) or by completing the USDA Hemp Application form. To apply through the HeMP, you must create an account on the portal. For complete instructions on the HeMP account creation process, watch the USDA eAuth sign-up video. The USDA accepts hemp production license applications throughout the year on a rolling basis.

The USDA also requires that you consent to a criminal background check. You must provide copies of FBI criminal background records for yourself and key participants in your application. You will be disqualified from obtaining a hemp production license if you, or any key participant listed in your application, have been convicted of a felony related to a controlled substance in the past ten years. You may find instructions for obtaining criminal records from the FBI on the criminal history report page of the FBI website. Your FBI report must be dated no more than 60 days from your application submission date.

If you opt for a paper application, the completed application must be sent by mail with a copy of the FBI criminal history report to:

USDA/AMS/Specialty Crops Program

Hemp Branch

470 L’Enfant Plaza S.W.

Post Office Box 23192

Washington D.C. 20026 

For additional information on getting a USDA hemp production license, review the USDA Producer HeMP User Guide or contact the Department by emailing farmbill.hemp@usda.gov or call (202) 720-2491.

How Much Does a License to Grow or Process Hemp Cost in Mississippi?

Mississippi does not charge a fee for a hemp license in the state, as hemp licenses are issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). A USDA-issued hemp production license is valid for three years unless the State of Mississippi opts to commence and administer its own hemp production program within that period.

How to Grow Hemp in Mississippi

Hemp is a versatile plant that can be grown for multiple purposes. However, in order to successfully cultivate hemp, you must understand the optimal soil conditions, climate conditions, and other cultivation techniques to obtain good crop yields. The first step in cultivating hemp is selecting a vibrant seed. Purchasing hemp seeds from sources with good quality control standards ensures that you will experience desirable characteristics such as ideal CBD-to-THC ratios, robust growth, and abundant flowering potential.

After obtaining good seeds, you must ensure optimal soil conditions to support a healthy crop growth. Hemp thrives in loose, well-aerated loam that is rich in nutrients. The pH of the soil should be higher than 6.0, with neutral to slightly alkaline soil being ideal. Soil with a high clay concentration that is readily compacted may considerably reduce hemp yields.

As a general rule, you should plant your hemp when there is no longer any chance of frost. The ideal temperature range for soil is between 46 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, note that seeds need moisture in the soil to grow.

What you want to do with your hemp will determine how much space you need between plants. The distance between plants will differ for hemp seeds planted to produce fiber, seeds, and CBD. Hemp plants that will be used to make fiber can be planted closely together, but hemp plants intended to be used to produce seeds or CBD must be planted farther apart.

During its growth cycle, hemp will require about 20–30 inches of rain. If the plants do not get enough rainfall, they will need to be watered. Note that the plant will take in more water each day until it starts to flower. After this, the plant's water absorption rate decreases significantly but goes back up during the late flowering and seed-formation stages.

The nutrients necessary for a healthy harvest depends on the findings of your soil test. Essential nutrients needed include potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. You may also use pesticides and insecticides to protect your crop from pests and diseases. The United States Environmental Protection Agency approves 58 biopesticides and one conventional pesticide for use in hemp plant cultivation.

In 90-100 days, your hemp plants will reach the flowering stage. The time to harvest your hemp plants depends on the sort of hemp you have cultivated. Hemp for CBD is generally harvested around 120 days after planting. This is the period necessary for the flowers to mature and become full with seeds. In all, the life cycle of a hemp plant ranges between 70  and 140 days, depending on the climate and method of cultivation.

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Mississippi?

Smokable hemp flowers are legal in Mississippi. Mississippi residents may purchase smokable hemp flowers from local stores or online stores. Mississippi has not placed any limits on the amount of hemp flowers consumers may purchase.

Hemp vs. THC

Hemp is a type of cannabis plant containing many cannabinoids. One of the cannabinoids contained in the hemp plant is THC, which is the psychoactive compound that gets users high. However, hemp consumers are unlikely to get high from hemp products since hemp only contains trace amounts of THC. Hemp-derived THC products with THC contents within the federally stipulated limits (0.3%) may be sold and purchased in Mississippi.

Hemp vs. CBD

CBD, also called cannabidiol, is one of the chemical compounds found in both hemp and marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD has no intoxicating or euphoric effect on users. Hemp-derived CBD is legal and can be sold and consumed in Mississippi.

Hemp Applications

Hemp may be cultivated for several industrial and commercial applications. While it is commonly known and used for its medicinal properties, it is also used for making:

  • Building Materials: Hemp is a useful resource in making building materials. For instance, hemp-lime or hempcrete is a bio-composite material used in building construction. Construction materials made from hemp are more resistant to fires and rodent attacks
  • Cosmetics: Hemp seed oil derived from the hemp plant is a common extract used in many cosmetic products to provide effective moisturizing effect or as an emollient to smoothen or soften the skin
  • Automobiles: Hemp-derived bioplastics may be used to make car bodies. Hemp-based bioplastics are less prone to bumps and dents as they are stronger than steel. Due to being lighter in weight than steel and glass fiber, its use translates to less fuel consumption and better propulsion in automobiles
  • Fuel: According to researchers from the University of Connecticut (UConn), seeds from industrial hemp may be used to create viable, sustainable diesel fuel. Hemp biodiesel is produced from hemp seed oil and may be used in conventional diesel engines
  • Textile: Hemp is one of the strongest natural fibers used in textile production. It is tougher and more durable than cotton and offers superior ultraviolet (UV) protection compared to other fabrics made from natural fibers

 

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