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Critics say California bill puts hemp under control of marijuana interests

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Critics say the California’s hemp industry will go under control of marijuana interests if a law defining industrial hemp products is adopted.

Under the proposed law, hemp products of all kinds would be required to follow the same rules as marijuana, resulting in unacceptable over-regulation, said veteran cannabis consultant Richard Rose. That’s because hemp would be under California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), with enforcement by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control in addition to the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CFDA).

“Once BCC has control it will open the door for taxes, fees, regulations, and new crimes and penalties,” said California hemp veteran Chris Boucher, CEO at Farmtiva, a hemp ag services company and CBD consultant.

Gutting potential

Unclear language could mean restrictions on all hemp products, according to Rose.

“While no doubt they are focused on hemp CBD, it nevertheless includes ALL hemp products, hempseed food, oil, clothes, hempcrete, hemp paper, rope, etc.,” Rose said. “The state is gutting 98% of hemp’s potential value for farmers with this bill.”

The measure, California Assembly Bill 45 (AB45) is a successor proposal to AB228, a similar measure that failed to get a vote in the legislature this past summer.

Identified as an “urgency statute,” AB45 needs implementation immediately to “protect a rapidly expanding industry relating to derivatives from industrial hemp in California and to reduce inconsistency in implementation of state and federal law,” the bill suggests.

Key proposals

Among other key proposals, AB45 would:

  • Ban smokable hemp, CBD vapes and pens, hemp in beer, wine or spirits, and alcohol-based tinctures. This could change based on FDA guidance on CBD.
  • Require manufacturers and retailers to be licensed, and to share information with law enforcement and the BCC – similar to rules guiding marijuana in California.
  • Designate “hemp extract” and “industrial hemp raw extract” as “not for consumer use” but nonetheless require those derivatives to be tested for unspecified “derivatives.”
  • Create an authorization process for hemp manufacturers “who produce specified products that include industrial hemp or who produce raw hemp extract,” and authorize fees of $1,000 per company to support such a program.
  • Establish marketing, sanitary and safety and sales regulations for food and cosmetics.
  • Set requirements for laboratories that analyze hemp and hemp products.
  • Establish an Industrial Hemp Research Fund to support research at the University of California.

‘Anti-hemp’

Rose said the bill is not surprising considering “California’s long anti-hemp history” in which many against hemp and hemp-derived CBD want CBD for themselves. 

“California is the worst state in which to grow hemp. With thousands of medical grows, they don’t want hemp pollen floating around,” Rose said. “While they could have handled that by banning males, monoecious, and hermaphrodites, instead they just make it impossible to grow any hemp.”

A similar bill that did not include the smokable hemp ban was floated last year, but failed when the legislative session ran out of time to vote on it.

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