North Dakota Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant with relatively little delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that causes intoxication or a "high" feeling. Although marijuana and hemp look visually similar and belong to the same species (Cannabis sativa), there are notable differences between both. The most striking difference between hemp is in their level of psychoactive compounds. Generally, legal hemp contains 0.3% or less THC content in compliance with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, while marijuana has more than 0.3% THC content by dry weight. Depending on the types of cannabis plants and cultivars, hemp plants tend to have higher cannabidiol (CBD) levels than marijuana plants.

Hemp is commonly referred to as industrial hemp as it produces tall, large plants used in making various consumer and industrial products, such as textiles, food, fiber, biofuels, and wellness supplements. Others include paper, cosmetics, bioplastics, home furnishings, ropes, and construction materials. The following are some parts of the hemp plant:

  • Hemp Seed - Hemp seed is the part of the hemp plant from which the plant germinates and blossoms like any other plant. It is a small, brown nut containing a root and a thin endosperm. Inside the hemp seed are also two cotyledons having the embryotic first leaves that appear after germination. Hemp seeds are rich in protein, fatty acids (such as Omega-6 and Omega-3), and fiber and can help reduce inflammation and improve skin health, heart health, neurological conditions, and joint function. Hemp seeds are commonly processed and consumed as hemp coffee, hemp tea, hemp seed flour, and hemp seed milk
  • Hemp Flower - Sometimes called colas, the hemp flower is found around the top of a female hemp plant and is usually the last part to grow. It has the highest concentrations of CBD and other cannabinoids compared to other parts of the hemp plant. Parts of a hemp flower include pistils, calyxes, and trichomes. Besides being turned into rope, milk, or clothes, hemp flowers can be eaten, vaped, and smoked. CBD hemp flowers are believed to have several benefits, including improved clear-mindedness and relaxation
  • Hemp Hearts - Hemp hearts are the soft internal part of unshelled hemp seeds. They do not contain THC or CBD despite sharing the same plant mother. Hemp hearts contain all nine essential amino acids. Also, they comprise 25% protein and over 20% fiber. Hemp hearts have several benefits, including:
  • Reduction of inflammation
  • Improving brain health
  • Balancing hormones
  • Promotion of weight loss
  • Providing relief for rheumatoid arthritis
  • Combating menopause
  • Improving immunity levels
  • Reduction of Type 2 Diabetes risk
  • Aiding digestion
  • Its use as natural nutritional supplements
  • Lowering the risk of stroke or heart attack (heart health)

Common derivatives (products) of the hemp plant in North Dakota include:

  • Hemp Extract - Hemp extract comes by extracting oil from parts of a raw hemp plant with high cannabidiol levels, with analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits. Hemp extract helps in the treatment and management of pain relief, depression, seizures in epilepsy, and more
  • Hemp Oil - Hemp oil is extracted from hemp seed and is commonly referred to as hemp seed oil. Rich in amino acids, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids, hemp oil is a more suitable option for skincare. Hemp oil is also used as a remedy for several other medical conditions, including:
  • Reduction of seizures in rare types of childhood epilepsy
  • Reduction of inflammation
  • Improving cardiovascular health
  • Hemp Milk - Hemp milk is made by blending water with whole hemp seeds. However, those made for commercial purposes sometimes contain salt, thickeners, or sweeteners. Many people, especially those avoiding dairy milk, use hemp milk as an alternative to cow's milk. Users can add it to cereal (hot or cold), smoothies, and baked goods or consume it alone. Hemp milk is rich in high-quality minerals, protein, and healthy fats and has several health benefits. The health benefits of hemp milk in North Dakota are evident in skin health, heart health, immune system strengthening, and brain health

Is Hemp Legal in North Dakota?

Yes, hemp is legal in North Dakota. The United States Agricultural Act of 2014, otherwise known as the 2014 Farm Bill, permitted hemp production in the U.S. under state-administered pilot programs. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed state institutions of higher education and departments of agriculture to cultivate industrial hemp if the state laws permitted it. Additionally, hemp cultivation under the 2014 Farm Bill was for research purposes (research on hemp production and marketing) under states' agricultural pilot programs or other academic or agricultural research.

In 2018, the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) was signed into law in the United States. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp and cannabis derivatives with remarkably low delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations (no more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis) from marijuana's definition in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill considered hemp an agricultural commodity and directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a pathway for commercializing hemp production in the United States. With its removal from the U.S. controlled substances list, the 2018 Farm Bill allowed the free movement of hemp in the United States, even through state borders. Also, the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 allows states to regulate hemp within their borders.

Before the 2014 Farm Bill, the North Dakota Legislature had, in 1999, passed HB 1428 to legalize and reclassify hemp containing three-tenths of 1% THC or less as a commercial crop. The passage of this bill made North Dakota the first state to permit industrial hemp production. The North Dakota Legislature had, since the passage of HB 1428, passed several other bills requiring the state's Department of Agriculture (NDDA) to regulate hemp production and processing within the state's borders.

In 2007, the NDDA began licensing hemp producers in North Dakota, but the producers could not secure the correct permits from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). However, this changed when the 2014 Farm Bill became law. In 2015, HB 1438 was signed into law in North Dakota and amended the existing law by removing the DEA license requirements for hemp growers. Since 2015, the NDDA has overseen the North Dakota Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program under federal guidelines.

With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp regulation in the United States was taken from the DEA and became the responsibility of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Handing over hemp regulation to the FDA greatly impacted the North Dakota Hemp Industry as it made hemp-derived CBD products widely available in many retail outlets to residents. Hemp producers in North Dakota require an NDDA-issued license for hemp production (cultivation and processing), including home production. Hemp products can cross North Dakota border lines in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill.

What Hemp Products are Legal in North Dakota?

Generally, hemp-derived CBD products containing 0.3% THC or less on a dry weight basis and other hemp products within the acceptable hemp THC level are legal in North Dakota. However, Section 4.1-181-043 of the North Dakota Century Code prohibits the sale of hemp products created using the isomerization of cannabinoids to create more isomers of THC, including delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10 THC.

Besides using hemp fibers for rope, textiles, building products, and paper, hemp growers in North Dakota cultivate hemp for food and edibles. Hemp seed is used in producing feed, food, and oil. Hemp oil is even largely used in pharmaceuticals. Although hemp edibles are supposed to be illegal based on the FDA's disapproval of using hemp as a food additive or health supplement, they are still available in several retail shops.

No specific North Dakota law prohibits smoking hemp in public or while driving. However, because no one can tell which herb is hemp and which is marijuana when placed side by side, law enforcement agents can misconstrue hemp as marijuana when smoked in public or while driving. It is best for North Dakotans to limit hemp smoking to their residents to avoid arrests by law enforcement.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in North Dakota?

Hemp regulation in North Dakota is strictly under the purview of the state's Department of Agriculture (NDDA) as established by the state's hemp laws and the 2018 Farm Bill. North Dakota hemp laws do not permit municipalities, including counties, cities, and towns, to determine whether or not to allow individuals or business entities to produce hemp within their borders.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process in North Dakota

Any hemp grower or processor in North Dakota must obtain a grower or processor license from the state's Department of Agriculture (NDDA). To avoid violating federal criminal law, an industrial hemp pilot producer in North Dakota must, in addition to obtaining a license from the NDDA, participate in an academic or agricultural research program conducted by the NDDA or an institution of higher education.

The following documents are required to obtain a hemp grower or processor license in North Dakota:

North Dakota hemp license applicants should mail completed application forms and other documents to the NDDA at:

North Dakota Department of Agriculture

Plant Industries Division

600 E Boulevard Ave, Dept 602

Bismarck, ND 58505-0020

North Dakota hemp grower or processor license applicants can also use the North Dakota Online Licensing and Exchange Portal to apply for a state hemp license by taking the following steps:

  • Select Hemp from the state's online licensing and exchange portal
  • Create an account by selecting log-in and then clicking on Register now
  • After registration, go back to the initial page and log in with the new account details

The NDDA provides a step-by-step guide to using the online licensing and exchange portal. The portal contains a tab for a background check that allows them to pay the cost of a background check online, but they may choose to send their check via mail to the NDDA. To complete a background check, an applicant still needs to submit a completed Form SFN 60688 and two fingerprint cards to the NDDA. An applicant can only go further in the online application process if the NDDA approves their background check.

Once their background check is approved, applicants can continue their application by selecting Hemp Processor or Hemp Grower from the account overview tab, depending on the license type of interest. After filling out all the required fields, they should click on Request License, choose their preferred license fee payment means (credit card, electronically with a check, or a mail-in check), and then submit their application.

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

It costs $200 to obtain a North Dakota hemp processor license. However, hemp grower license fees depend on the number of lots intended for hemp cultivation. A lot is a contiguous area in a greenhouse, indoor growing facility, or field where the same hemp strain or variety is grown. Depending on the number of lots, the schedule of a North Dakota hemp grower licensing fee is as follows:

  • 1 lot - $100
  • 2 lots - $200
  • 3 lots - $300
  • 4 or more lots - $350

License applicants may also be required to pay up to $125 for hemp sampling, inspection, and testing. Hemp licenses in North Dakota are valid for one year from the issue dates and must be renewed annually. The cost of renewal is the same as the initial license fee. The NDDA accepts payments made via credit cards (for online applications), checks, or money orders. Money orders and checks should be made payable to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.

How to Grow Hemp in North Dakota

Obtaining a grower license from the state's Department of Agriculture (NDDA) before purchasing hemp seeds for cultivation is the first step to growing hemp legally in North Dakota. Hemp growers in the state can buy domestic seeds from any state in the United States. However, they must be cautious about purchasing hemp seeds whose total THC levels are under 0.3% from reputable sources. Although hemp growers in North Dakota are not required to buy certified seeds, they may contact the North Dakota State Seed Department for information on varieties of certified hemp seed grown in the state.

Although hemp will grow anywhere in North Dakota, the plant grows better in some soil types than others. Typically, hemp does better in soil with a pH of 6 to 7.5. Growers should plant hemp seeds between 1.9 cm to 3.2 cm deep in well-aerated, loamy, and incredibly fertile soil. To determine the pH level of the proposed soil for hemp cultivation, a North Dakota hemp grower may get the soil tested by taking a soil sample to their local agricultural department or buying a soil test online.

Generally, hemp needs between 20 to 30 inches of rainfall during its growth cycle. A North Dakota hemp grower must be proactive enough to use a proper irrigation system where rainfall does not meet the 20 to 30 inches requirement, especially during the period between seed germination and the beginning of flowering. Also, North Dakota hemp growers should ensure to grow their hemp where they can receive adequate sunlight. Planting hemp after the last danger of frost is often advised. Although the hemp plant can grow in places with as little as six hours of sunlight daily, it will grow even better in locations with about 10 to 12 hours per day.

To ensure that hemp plants do well through the growing season, growers can supplement the soil's rich organic matter with moderate North Dakota-approved minerals and nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Growers can obtain such fertilizers by contacting fertilizer distributors licensed by NDDA under the North Dakota Fertilizer Program. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a list of pesticides suitable for hemp cultivation in the U.S. These pesticides include some biopesticides (those derived from natural materials like plants and animals) and conventional pesticides. North Dakota hemp growers may use them to control pests and diseases if they satisfy the USDA National list of allowed and prohibited substances. Typically, hemp crops grown in North Dakota are ready for harvest after four months of planting.

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in North Dakota?

Residents of North Dakota can buy smokable flowers, provided it is a CBD product with 0.3% or less THC level. Nothing in the state's hemp laws prohibits hemp flowers. However, to avoid trouble with law enforcement, it is best to smoke hemp flowers in private residences, as law enforcement agents may sometimes mistake hemp flowers for marijuana.

Hemp flowers are available for sale in several local stores in North Dakota. Residents can also purchase smokable hemp flowers from online stores engaging in CBD product sales. However, make sure of the permissions and quality of a hemp flower, as various low-quality products sold by unreliable retailers are everywhere on the market.

In compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill, North Dakota allows the shipping of hemp flowers from other states. Shipping small amounts of hemp flowers across state borders is legal in the United States. There is no limit to the amount of hemp flowers a person can purchase in North Dakota, provided it does not contain more than the legally permitted THC percentage.

Hemp vs THC

Hemp and THC are two different things. Hemp is a term for a species of Cannabis sativa containing 0.3% or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid that causes a "high" when ingested. It means that the small quantity of THC found in hemp is not enough to create the intoxicating effect associated with marijuana. While it is legal to sell and purchase hemp-derived Delta-9 THC products in North Dakota, buying and selling hemp-derived Delta-8 products in the state is illegal. North Dakota considers hemp-based Delta-8 THC a Schedule I controlled substance under the state Controlled Substances Act. As a result, possessing, distributing, producing, and promoting Delta-8 products in North Dakota is illegal.

Hemp vs CBD

Hemp and CBD are not the same things. Like THC, CBD is one of the active components of hemp. Unlike THC, which is famous for its psychoactive effects, CBD in hemp provides therapeutic benefits. For instance, scientific research suggests that hemp-based CBD can help with anxiety and pain. Also, clinical research reveals that hemp-derived CBD is effective in treating epilepsy. Hemp-derived CBD products are legal in North Dakota and available in many retail stores. However, hemp-based CBD products in the state must not contain more than 0.3% THC. North Dakota does not have a possession limit for hemp-based CBD products.

Hemp Applications

Besides its medicinal benefits, hemp has other notable uses in North Dakota. These include:

  • Housing construction and production of building materials - The silica strained from the soil by the hemp plant, when combined with limestone, forms a chemical bond like that of cement. This chemical bond is water and fireproof and is helpful in housing construction. Commonly called hempcrete, it emits less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than regular cement if used for home insulation
  • Fabric and paper production - The use of hemp in fiber production plays a vital role in fabric production. Hemp fiber is strong and usually durable and is commonly applied in the clothing industry to produce nets, ropes, sacks, and carpets. Also, with a cellulose content of around 70%, hemp fiber is used in paper production
  • Environmental benefits - Hemp purifies nature and cleans the air breathed by humans by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. While the roots of a hemp plant can strengthen the soil in which it is planted, the plant also helps in soil regeneration
  • Cosmetics use - Hemp is used in the production of various skin products for hair treatments, acne relief, soothing rough patches of eczema, and reducing wrinkles and fine lines
  • Food - Hemp seeds are a great source of protein powder and are commonly used in producing dairy-free milk and hemp seed oil. These products are known for improving cholesterol and lowering the risk of heart diseases
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