Industrial Hemp Research Bill (NB 967)

July 12, 2016

On July 10, 2016, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Industrial Hemp Research Bill (HB 967) when the House concurred unanimously with the Senate’s amendments. The bill is now on Governor Wolf’s desk and is expected to be signed.

The bill regulates research on industrial hemp, a plant cannabis sativa L. with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry-weight basis. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (“department”) will govern and oversee the implementation of the bill.

Pursuant to HB 967, industrial hemp may be grown or cultivated either by the department or an institution of higher education for the purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program. Any activity in compliance with this bill shall not be in violation of the laws of the Commonwealth regardless of previously enacted legislations relating to industrial hemp.

The department or an institution of higher education may contract with a third-party to cultivate or grow industrial hemp. However, a third-party in contract with an institution of higher education not only must conform with all the provisions under the bill but must obtain written approval from the Department.  All third-parties growing hemp under contract (with either the department or an institution of higher education) must also satisfy a criminal history record check.

The department may impose criminal and civil penalties under the bill. A criminal penalty may be imposed on a person for violating a provision of the bill or for preventing or attempting to prevent the department from performing its duties relating to industrial hemp.  A civil penalty of not more than $5,000 per violation may also be assessed against a person for a violation of a provision of the bill.

HB 967 may assist the development of the nascent medical marijuana industry in Pennsylvania which was approved by General Assembly earlier this year but will not begin to operate until the Department of Health issues permits for the growing and processing of medical marijuana. The legalization of industrial hemp production in Pennsylvania may present additional opportunities for growers/processers who are interested in becoming involved in the related medical marijuana industry.

This Eckert Seamans Medical Marijuana Blog is intended to keep readers current on matters affecting businesses and is not intended to be legal advice.  Eckert Seaman’s Law Clerk Carlos Camandang contributed substantially to this entry. If you have any questions, please contact Dan Clearfield at (717) 237-7173 – dclearfield@eckertseamans.com.

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