Iowa’s Hemp Law

The 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for commercial hemp production in the U.S. by legalizing it as an agricultural commodity and removing it from the list of federally controlled substances. It also gave states and the federal government shared regulatory authority over hemp production. 

Iowa Senate File 599, known as the hemp bill, passed through the Iowa Senate and Iowa House of Representatives during the 2019 Legislative Session. Gov. Reynolds signed the bill into law on May 13, 2019, meaning farmers are one step closer to being able to legally grow hemp in Iowa. 

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will develop a state plan to license and regulate the production of hemp and submit it to the USDA for approval. Farmers cannot legally grow hemp in Iowa until the USDA approves the state’s proposed regulatory plan. Hemp production will likely not be legalized until the 2020 growing season at the earliest, depending on the timing of the review and approval process. 

Growers are advised to do their research and confirm there is a viable, profitable market for commercial hemp production before they make an investment in seed and equipment. 

Facts about hemp

  • Once the USDA approves the state’s proposed regulatory plan, an individual farmer can legally grow up to 40 acres of hemp. 

  • This law legalizes the production, processing and marketing of hemp in Iowa. It does not legalize the recreational use of marijuana.  

  • Hemp plants (Cannabis spp.) have THC levels of 0.3 percent or less. Plants with THC levels above 0.3 percent are still considered controlled substances in the state of Iowa and must be destroyed.

  • Hemp produces fibers which can be used to make products like textiles, oils, paper and rope. 

  • The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will regulate the production of hemp. 

  • Farmers must have a license from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to grow hemp.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  What is hemp?

A.  “Hemp” means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis.

Hemp and marijuana are the same plant, Cannabis sativa L., and can only be differentiated with a laboratory test. Hemp has a THC of 0.3%, or less, on a dry weight basis, and marijuana has a THC content that is above 0.3% on a dry weight basis. The Iowa hemp legislation does not legalize marijuana.

Q.  Does the recent passage of hemp legislation make it legal to grow hemp in Iowa in 2019?

A.  No, hemp cannot be legally grown in Iowa in 2019. Iowa’s legislation adopts the 2018 Farm hemp provisions, which the USDA will implement after the federal rulemaking process is complete. USDA estimates those rules may be in place by the end of 2019. Then, the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS) must submit a state plan to USDA. USDA has 60 days to accept or reject Iowa’s plan. Once a state plan is approved, growers will be required to obtain a license from IDALS in order to grow hemp.

Q.  How are other states legally growing hemp now?

A.  Many states have adopted the 2014 Farm Bill hemp provisions, though Iowa has not. Hemp is being grown in those states under the 2014 Farm Bill provisions until the 2018 Farm Bill is fully implemented. 

Q. Does the Iowa hemp legislation change the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Program?

A.  No, the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Program, operated by the Iowa Department of Public Health, is not affected by the passage of the Iowa hemp legislation. For more information on medical cannabidiol, see http://idph.iowa.gov/cbd

Q.  What are the hemp license application requirements? 

A.  (1) All applicants will need to submit official fingerprints and be subject to a FBI national criminal history record check (e.g. background check). A person cannot obtain an Iowa hemp license if they have any controlled substance felony convictions for producing, possessing, using, harvesting, handling, manufacturing, marketing, transporting, delivering, or distributing a controlled substance, for a ten-year period following the date of conviction.  

     (2) An applicant may hold any number of Iowa hemp licenses; however, no one can hold a legal or equitable interest in a crop site larger than 40 acres.

     (3) All applicants must completely and truthfully complete the license application form.
              a)    Hemp varieties to be planted must be recorded on the application form. 
     (4) License fees established in Iowa Law:
              a) Five hundred dollars plus five dollars per acre, for each crop site that is five acres or less.
              b) Seven hundred and fifty dollars, plus five dollars per acre, for each crop site that is more than five acres but not more than ten acres.
              c) One thousand dollars plus five dollars per acre, for each crop site that is more than ten acres.

Q.  What are the pre-harvest requirements?

A.   Before a licensed hemp crop can be harvested, the licensee must notify the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS) at least 30 in advance. IDALS must officially sample and test the THC level. If the sample is above 0.3% total THC on a dry weight basis, IDALS will order the entire crop to be destroyed. If the THC level is 0.3% (or below) total THC on a dry weight basis, IDALS will issue a certificate of crop inspection to the licensee, and the hemp can then be harvested. 

If the hemp crop fails THC testing, the department shall order the destruction of the crop. The licensee shall pay for the actual cost of destruction. 

Q.  How much does the pre-harvest inspection and testing cost?

A.  Per the Iowa hemp legislation, the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS) will charge a base fee of $1,000 to inspect and test pre-harvest.  If the licensee requests additional testing for different varieties, or a retest, IDALS will charge a supplemental fee.

Q.  What are the transportation requirements of harvested hemp?

A.  Once the licensed hemp crop produced in Iowa is officially inspected, tested and receives a certificate of crop inspection from the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS), the hemp can be transported with (1) a certificate of crop inspection covering the harvested hemp and (2) a bill of lading that includes information required by the department, which will indicate the name of the owner of the hemp, the point of origin, and the point of delivery.

If the hemp originates from outside the state of Iowa, the hemp can be transported with a bill of lading that includes information required by IDALS, including the name of the owner of the hemp, the point of origin, and the point of delivery. The transporter must be in compliance with the federal hemp law and other applicable federal law.

Hemp seed being moved for planting in Iowa must be transported with the following (a) If the hemp seed was harvested in Iowa, a certificate of crop inspection covering the harvested hemp. (b) A bill of lading that includes information required by the department, which must at least indicate the name of the owner of the hemp, the point of origin, and the point of delivery.

Q.  What right of access will the Iowa Departmednt of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS) have on a licensed hemp crop site?

A.  IDALS inspectors may enter into a crop site at reasonable hours to determine if a licensee is in compliance with the requirements of the Iowa hemp law. IDALS may request business records relevant to the inspection. IDALS may request that the Iowa Department of Public Safety or local law enforcement accompany them.

Q.  Does the new Iowa hemp law make the over-the-counter sale of CBD legal?

A.  No, the new Iowa hemp law says that a person may engage in the retail sale of a hemp product, which includes cannabidiol (CBD) if it was produced in compliance with the federal hemp law and other applicable federal laws. Despite common assertions that hemp-derived CBD products are legal in all 50 states, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved food products or dietary supplements containing CBD for human consumption. The FDA published an informative FAQ that is helpful in understanding the FDA’s current position on sales of food products and dietary supplements containing hemp-derived CBD.

The Iowa Department of Public Health’s Position Statement on CBD Products summarizes which CBD products are legal in Iowa

Q.  What pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides) can be applied to a hemp crop?

A.  No, registered pesticides are currently approved for application to hemp. This is subject to change, as per EPA approval of pesticides.

Q.  Can I apply a pre-plant herbicide prior to planting hemp?

A.  No, at this time, no pesticide can be applied — even a pre-plant herbicide — to an area where you intend to cultivate hemp. This is subject to change, as per EPA approval of pesticides. For more information on pesticide products and registration, visit iowaagriculture.gov/pesticide-bureau/pesticide-products.

Q. How do the herbicides I applied in the 2019 growing season impact acres I may wish to plant to hemp in 2020 or future years? 

A. You are required to follow the herbicide label, the label is the law. Because hemp has only recently become a legal commodity crop, herbicide labels do not include rotation/plant-back restrictions for hemp. Hemp would fall under the category of “other crop” and many of those re-plant/plant-back restrictions are for several months — some longer than a year. The herbicides you choose in 2019 may preclude you from growing hemp on those acres in 2020 — and possibly beyond 2020 — depending on what the label states.

Q.  Can I feed hemp products in food for humans or animals? 

A.  The 2018 Farm Bill did not grant the right to use hemp and hemp products in food for humans or animals. The FDA has regulatory authority over food products. More detailed information.

Q.  Is crop insurance available for hemp? 

A.  No, the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) does not have coverage available on hemp at this time. Establishing an insurance program requires data to base decisions, and thus takes time, on a new crop. Furthermore, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) must first develop the federal regulations for implementing the 2018 Farm Bill hemp provisions.

Q. Can I apply for an Iowa Agricultural & Vegetable Seed Permit now, in anticipation of selling hemp seed once hemp is legal in Iowa?

A. The department has received several applications for a seed permit specifically to sell hemp seed and those licenses have been issued. However, it is vital that seed permit holders understand that cannabis seeds, at this point in time, cannot be legally possessed nor distributed in Iowa. Currently, there is no legal definition of hemp in Iowa Statute, thus all cannabis falls under the definition of marijuana.

Q. Who should I contact if I have questions?

A. For more information, contact Robin Pruisner at Robin.Pruisner@Iowaagriculture.gov or 515-725-1465.

 

Proposed Regulatory Plan — Coming soon

Apply for a permit to sell hemp seed once it is legal in Iowa

Partner Resources 

  1. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) Guidelines on Hemp in Animal Food (May 1, 2019)
  2. Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, Iowa Hemp Act Would Pave Way for Future Hemp Production (April 26, 2019) 
  3. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products: Questions and Answer
  4. Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals: CBD Regulatory Notice
  5. ABD Regulatory Bulletin
  6. IDPH Position Statement on OTC-CBD Products
  7. Attorney General's Statement on Hemp and CBD Products