Utah Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a Cannabis sativa cultivar grown for its industrial and medicinal use. The 1964 Agricultural Marketing Act defines hemp as any part of the Cannabis Sativa L plant, including the seeds, extracts, isomers, acids, cannabinoids, and any other derivative with a delta-9 THC concentration of no more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis. Hemp, often called industrial hemp, is grown for its edible seeds and fibers. The seeds are used for its medicinal properties, while its bast fibers are cultivated to produce a wide range of industrial and consumer products, including construction materials, textiles, and personal care products.

Hemp and marijuana are derived from the Cannabis Sativa L species, with both similar in appearance and containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) along with other chemical substances. However, they are different. Hemp plants are abundant in CBD but have less of the psychoactive component THC, usually 0.3% or less. Hemp is cultivated for its commercial and industrial purpose. Hemp plants are tall with skinny leaves and can be as high as 8 feet at maturity. Marijuana plants are abundant in THC, with some strains having up to 15% THC concentration. However, marijuana contains trace amounts of CBD. Marijuana plants have no specified threshold for THC content and are cultivated mainly for their psychotropic properties and therapeutic effect. Mature marijuana plants have thick leaves. They grow wider and, at maturity, can be as high as 5 feet.

The hemp plant is versatile, with each part having different uses and benefits. The hemp seeds are rich in protein, dietary fiber, and healthy fats. Healthy fats aid in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, while the amino acid in hemp seed helps to maintain healthy muscles and bones. Hemp flowers are the unrefined buds of the female hemp plant. They are high in CBD and best known for their anti-inflammatory properties, including mitigating pains, anxiety, and other health issues. Hemp extracts are the concentration of the hemp plants, stems, and leaves. They contain a range of phytocannabinoids, including CBD, terpenes, and antioxidants, which help to relieve chronic pain and promote more relaxing sleep.

Hemp oil is obtained from hemp seeds. Hemp oil has curative properties ranging from improving symptoms of atopic dermatitis to treating cancer. Hemp hearts are the shelled, squishy inner parts of the hemp seed. Their high-fat content makes them excellent for heart-related medical conditions. Hemp milk is a non-dairy plant-based milk. It contains healthy fats, which promote a healthy heart.

Is Hemp Legal in Utah?

Yes. Hemp cultivation, possession, and retail sales are legal in Utah. The 2014 Farm Bill established the legal framework for cultivating industrial hemp without a permit from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The bill birthed the Hemp Research Pilot Program, permitting states’ department of agriculture and higher education institutions to implement hemp research programs that allow farmers to cultivate hemp provided they comply with the states' requirements. Utah amended its hemp laws to align with the 2014 Farm Bill through House Bill 105. The bill permitted the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) to cultivate hemp for agriculture or academic research. It defined hemp as a cannabis plant with a THC concentration of 0.3% or less.

In 2018, President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law. The Act made significant changes to the 2014 Farm Bill. It made hemp an eligible agricultural commodity and removed it from the list of controlled substances. The bill also defines hemp based on its THC concentration of no more than 0.3%. Additionally, it legalized the cultivation, processing, and production of hemp for commercial purposes while easing interstate transportation of hemp. The bill authorized each state to regulate hemp production and submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In 2020, Utah modified its hemp laws to accommodate the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill through House Bill 18, known as the Hemp and Cannabinoid Act. The bill authorizes the UDAF to develop the state's industrial hemp production plan. It permits individuals to cultivate and produce industrial hemp or industrial hemp products. By aligning the state hemp law to the 2018 Farm Bill, transportation permits are no longer required to transport hemp products across state lines.

In 2023, Utah amended its hemp Act through House Bill 227. The bill creates a registration process for hemp producers and prohibits the sale of cannabinoid products containing THC to persons under 21 years. It further requires hemp producers to include warning labels on inhaled hemp products.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Utah?

Not all hemp-derived products are legal in Utah. Under Utah hemp law, it is legal to possess and consume hemp capsules, tablets, topicals, concentrated oils, oral liquids, sublingual oils, and rectangular or cubed gummies. Inhaled hemp products also became legal in 2023 with a caveat. Hemp producers must include adverse health warnings on their labels. The state restricts the use and sale of consumable hemp, including smokable hemp flowers, hemp leaves, and vapes. In addition, it is illegal to cultivate and distribute hemp-based products as food additives or as edibles.

Smokable hemp products are illegal in Utah. It is unlawful for residents to consume smokable hemp in private residences or public spaces. Also, since smokable hemp is prohibited, it is an offense for drivers and truckers to smoke hemp while operating a vehicle.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Utah?

No. The Utah Hemp and Cannabinoid Act does not permit municipalities to prohibit hemp cultivation or processing along its borders. Businesses with valid state licenses can cultivate or process hemp within the state, subject to municipal regulations.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process Hemp in Utah

Anyone interested in growing hemp in Utah must obtain a license from the USDA by creating an account using the Hemp eManagement Platform. Individuals or businesses obtaining a growers license for the first time must validate their identity through eAuth. Prospective hemp cultivators must upload an FBI Criminal History Report and Crop Acreage Reporting. Individuals, business entities, and research institutes in Utah can use the USDA Hemp Production Program User Guide to apply for hemp growers license online.

Prospective hemp processors in Utah can obtain industrial hemp processor licenses from the UDAF. In Utah, obtaining an industrial hemp processor license depends on the hemp processing activities the holder intends to perform. They include:

  • Tier 1: It allows businesses to perform all hemp processing activities, including hemp extraction, transportation, sale of raw hemp plant materials, and manufacturing of finished goods
  • Tier 2: A tier 2 hemp processing license permits the holder to receive raw plant materials and extract raw materials into concentrates. It also allows the processor to store, sell, and transport raw hemp concentrates
  • Tier 3: The license permits processors to receive, repackage, label, and store finished hemp products
  • Tier 4: A tier 4 processor license permits the holder to act as a wholesaler or distributor of raw and processed industrial hemp products and materials

All applicants must complete the Application for an Industrial Hemp Processor License online. Prospective processors must include the following information with documentation in their application:

  • A map of the production facility and a physical description of the facility
  • GPS coordinates and legal description of the processing facility
  • FBI Criminal history report
  • All applicants for a Tier 1 - 3 hemp processor license must obtain a UDAF food establishment inspection and permit from UDAF Regulatory services

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

The application and renewal fees for a Tier 1 hemp processor license is $2,500, while a Tier 2 hemp processor licensing fee is $2,000. Tier 3 and 4 hemp processor licenses cost $1,000 and $750. Hemp cultivators in Utah obtain their licenses from the USDA. The USDA does not charge an application fee for a hemp grower license. The renewal of a hemp grower license is subject to the same terms and conditions as the initial application approved.

How to Grow Hemp in Utah

Hemp plants thrive best in early winter or late spring when the soil pH levels are between 6.0 - 7.5, the soil temperature is at 70°F, and a relative humidity of 50%. The best soil texture for hemp plants is well-aerated, loose, loamy soil. Hemp may be grown indoors or outdoors but is best cultivated outdoors, where it can receive the required daily sunlight of up to 8 hours. During planting, put hemp seeds 1 inch into the ground. Hemp cultivated for its bast fibers is best planted closely together. Plant the seeds apart if growing hemp for its seeds.

During the first 6 weeks, irrigate the soil around the hemp plant until the soil is damp, up to 2 inches deep. Spread nitrogen or phosphorus-based fertilizer on the soil around the hemp plant

after germination. Hemp growers can protect the hemp plant by using a pre-emergent pesticide to block weeds from growing around the hemp plant.

Hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis species. However, they are grown differently. Hemp plants are easy to cultivate, maintain and harvest. Hemp plants are best planted outdoors with wide spaces between each plant. In contrast, marijuana plants require constant monitoring during growth. They can thrive indoors and do not require much spacing between each plant.

Utah defers to the federal government on regulations regarding hemp cultivation. Per the USDA final rule, hemp growers in Utah must adhere to the following regulations:

  • Hemp cultivators must obtain a license for each hemp cultivation location. Similarly, hemp growers cannot cultivate hemp in non-licensed locations
  • Hemp growers must adhere to the acceptable hemp THC level
  • Anyone with a federal or state conviction for controlled substance violation cannot grow hemp
  • It is unlawful for hemp cultivators to transfer, sell, or pledge their licenses

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Utah?

Only licensed businesses can legally possess, ship, and sell hemp flowers in their raw form in Utah. Per Utah hemp law, smokable hemp is illegal in the state. Hence, it is unlawful for cannabis dispensaries, convenience stores, or any local Utah business to sell smokable hemp. While residents can legally purchase smokable hemp online as the law is silent about online sales, Utah hemp law prohibits smoking hemp flowers in private residences and public places.

Hemp vs THC

Hemp is a variety of Cannabis Sativa with 0.3% THC concentration or less. Hemp plants contain low levels of THC but have high CBD concentrations. THC is abundant in marijuana plants. THC is psychoactive and is responsible for the mind-altering effect cannabis consumers feel. However, hemp is non-intoxicating because of its low THC concentration. Hemp-derived THC products are legal for patients registered in the Utah medical marijuana program only.

Hemp vs CBD

Hemp plants are high in CBD but low in THC. CBD is also found in marijuana plants but in trace amounts. Most CBD-based products are processed from the hemp plant due to its high CBD concentration. Consequently, it is non-psychoactive. Instead, it is known for its pain relief and relaxation effects. Hemp-derived CBD products are legal in Utah, provided the products contain 0.3% THC or less.

Hemp Applications

The hemp plant is versatile. Besides the medicinal advantage of the hemp plant, it has a wide range of applications in Utah, including the following:

  • Paper: Hemp is an excellent substitute for wood-based paper. Hemp paper is made from the pulp of hemp fibers and is more durable compared to conventional paper
  • Plastics: Hemp is high in cellulose, up to 75%, making it an ideal material for producing hemp plastic. Hemp-based plastic is strong and biodegradable
  • Textile and Fabrics: Hemp textiles are made using fibers from the stalks of the hemp plant. Hemp fabrics have a similar texture to cotton. However, they are not prone to shrinkage. Hemp textiles are more eco-friendly, durable, and more affordable than cotton-based textiles
  • Ropes and Twines: Twines and ropes are made by processing the outer layer of bast fibers stripped from the hemp plant. Hemp rope is strong, durable, and can withstand extreme conditions, making it a versatile material for securing heavy materials
  • Cosmetics: Hemp beauty products are produced from hemp seed extracts. Hemp seed oil serves as an alternative to petroleum-based cosmetics. Hemp oil is used as a base in soaps, lip balms, face creams, styling lotions, moisturizers, and hair oil.
  • Building Materials: Hemp concrete is a building material made from a mixture of hemp shives, water, sand, and a lime base. Hemp concrete can replace all materials used in constructing brick-based walls. Hemp concrete is ideal for insulation due to its low thermal conductivity properties
  • Biofuel: Hemp stalks and hemp oil can be used to produce bioethanol and biodiesel. Bioethanol and biodiesel from hemp plants are easily renewable and can effectively replace fossil fuels
  • Food and Beverages: Hemp beverages are produced by cold-pressing the hemp plant to obtain hemp juice or hemp water. Hemp tea is prepared from the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant. Hemp milk, a dairy-free protein source, comes from cold-pressing hemp seeds. Processed hemp seeds can also be used in food as cheese substitutes or hemp protein powder
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