Wisconsin Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Although they differ in their chemical composition and legal status, hemp and marijuana are both varieties of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa. The key difference between hemp and marijuana is their THC content. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects experienced when cannabis is consumed. Per state and federal definitions, hemp contains 0.3% THC or less, while marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC.

Hemp looks similar to marijuana, but there are some key differences, such as in height and density of the leaves. Hemp plants are taller and have thinner leaves than marijuana plants. Hemp flowers are also smaller and less dense than marijuana flowers. Although hemp is often called industrial hemp, specifically, industrial hemp is used to describe hemp grown for industrial uses, such as fiber and seed production.

Hemp seeds are a rich source of nutrients, including fiber, protein, healthy fats, and minerals. They are the seeds of the hemp plants and may be eaten raw or used to make cheese substitutes, milk, oil, or protein powder. Hemp flowers are obtained from the female industrial hemp plants and are a rich source of cannabidiol at full bloom. CBD is known for its therapeutic properties, as it is often used to relieve anxiety, pain, and inflammation.

Hemp extracts are concentrated hemp which has had its impurities and plant matter removed, leaving specific compounds intact. They are obtained from the stalk, leaves, and flowers of hemp plants. Hemp extracts include a range of cannabinoids and terpenes as well as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Hemp hearts are the name given to the soft interior part of the hemp seed interior. Hemp hearts are easy to digest and are packed with nutrients, making them a good nutritional supplement for individuals with sensitive stomachs. Hemp hearts contain a high level of potassium and iron, which can help reduce blood pressure when used in healthy amounts.

Hemp oil is oil that is extracted, typically by cold-pressing hemp seeds. It is often unrefined and is dark to light green and has health benefits for the heart, skin, and brain. Hemp milk is a plant-based milk alternative made from grinding hemp seeds. It is generally used as an alternative to cow milk by persons with dairy allergies. It is rich in protein, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E.

Is Hemp Legal in Wisconsin?

Yes. Before the passage of the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act (also called the 2018 Farm Bill), the State of Wisconsin had enacted its own hemp legislation. In 2017, Act 100 established a pilot program permitting the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes. This established the foundation for the state's participation in the emerging hemp industry.

The federal Farm Bill of 2014 allowed for the cultivation of hemp by institutions of higher learning and state agriculture departments for research purposes. The 2018 Farm Bill changed the landscape for hemp cultivation in the United States by expanding on the 2014 legislation, removing hemp from the list of controlled substances, and classifying the substance as an agricultural commodity. The 2018 Farm Bill established the framework for states to develop their hemp programs and legalized the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp and products derived from hemp.

The 2018 Farm Bill allowed for broader cultivation and commercialization of hemp and hemp products beyond research purposes in Wisconsin. This opened up opportunities for farmers and businesses in Wisconsin to participate in the hemp industry. Wisconsin residents can not legally grow and process hemp on their property, provided they are in compliance with the state's licensing requirements and other regulations. The Wisconsin DATCP (Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection) establishes licensing and compliance requirements in the state.

Note that the 2018 Farm Bill allows for the interstate transportation of hemp and its related products. Hence, Wisconsin does not prohibit transporting hemp and hemp-derived products across state lines into its jurisdiction.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Wisconsin?

There are no specific restrictions on hemp products in Wisconsin. The only requirement per Chapter 94.55 of the state’s statutes is that such products must contain no more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. Residents are allowed to cultivate hemp for food products, provided such activities are conducted in compliance with the relevant state requirements. While hemp flower is legal federally and may be smoked, it poses a challenge for law enforcement officers in terms of on-the-spot verification. In many cases, they may presume it to be marijuana and initiate appropriate charges accordingly.

Also, an individual who consumes hemp or a hemp-derived product and drives may be at risk of violating the law against operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI). Wisconsin OWI law prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle when detectable amounts of any controlled substance are in the driver's system. Currently, the list of restricted controlled substances in the state includes THC, regardless of the source. Hemp products commonly contain a small amount of THC, putting people who consume CBD at risk of committing an OWI.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin hemp laws do not allow municipalities to restrict hemp cultivation or processing within their jurisdictions.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process in Wisconsin

Since January 1, 2022, the Wisconsin Hemp Program, managed by the state's hemp program administered by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, has transitioned to the USDA. Hemp growers are now licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). To cultivate or process hemp in Wisconsin, you must apply to the USDA for a hemp production license.

To obtain a license to produce hemp from the USDA, create an account with the USDA Hemp eManagement Platform (HeMP) and submit a hemp application via your account on the HeMP. Hemp production license applications are accepted throughout the year on a rolling basis. Note that if you have been convicted of a felony related to a controlled substance or drug in the past 10 years, you are ineligible to apply for a USDA hemp production license.

To set up an online account on the HeMP, follow these steps:

  • Create an eAuth account: Visit the HeMP and create a “Customer” eAuth account. You may view an eAuth signup video for further registration instructions
  • Verify your identity through eAuth: After your eAuth account has been created, verify your identity by logging in and selecting “Verify My Identity.” You can either verify your identity online by answering some identity-related questions or through the nearest USDA Service Center
  • Log in to your eAuth account: Once you have completed the eAuth process, you can log in on the HeMP using your eAuth login information. Afterward, click “sign up" and create your HeMP account. Complete the online application, attach the results from the FBI report for all key participants, and submit the application

Note that applicants and their key participants must include completed FBI reports with the USDA hemp production license applications through the HeMP at the time of submission. FBI reports must not be dated more than 60 days from the date of the application submission. Applications submitted without FBI reports will be returned. For more information on getting your FBI Identity History Summary, visit the FBI's Criminal Justice Service website.

For more details on creating a HeMP account and completing a USDA hemp production license application on the HeMP, see the USDA Producer HeMP User Guide. Alternatively, call the USDA at (888) 721-HEMP (4367) or send an email to farmbill.hemp@usda.gov.

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

There is no fee for the USDA hemp production license. It is free to apply for and renew. However, there is a fee for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Identity History Summary Check, which is required for all USDA hemp license applicants. The FBI Identity History Summary Check costs $18. In addition to the FBI Identity History Summary Check fee, there may be other costs associated with obtaining and maintaining a USDA hemp production license, such as the cost of inspections and testing.

How to Grow Hemp in Wisconsin

Hemp cultivation differs from marijuana cultivation primarily due to variations in plant characteristics and cannabinoid concentration levels. To cultivate hemp successfully in Wisconsin, follow these steps:

  • Site Selection and Preparation: Choose a suitable location with well-drained soil and adequate sunlight. Prepare the soil by testing and amending it as necessary to meet the plant's nutrient requirements

  • Obtain Quality Seeds: The USDA does not maintain a registry of endorsed hemp genetics or approved hemp seed suppliers. USDA licensure for hemp cultivation does not require the approval of hemp genetics. While you have the freedom to procure your hemp genetic materials (whether it be seeds, clones, or transplants) from any licensed producer, it is advisable to conduct thorough research on the supplier and the specific hemp variety or strain before making a purchase. To determine which varieties or strains are better suited for your specific cultivation location, consider consulting with your local extension office.

    In the United States, all seed sales are subject to labeling requirements that aim to specify the quality of the seed being acquired. For more information on the labeling prerequisites for hemp seeds, you can refer to the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) website. This resource will provide you with comprehensive information regarding the labeling standards applicable to hemp seeds in the United States

  • Planting: Hemp plant seeds should be planted at the appropriate season and depth and spacing. Adequate spacing helps prevent overcrowding and promotes proper air circulation. It is recommended that planting be done from mid-May to late June for the best crop yields with lower risk of frost injury

    The end use of your crops will determine the seeding rate. When cultivating hemp for fiber production, the seeding rate is recommended to be double that for hemp cultivation for grain production. The reason for higher seeding rates is to allow for a higher-quality fiber crop. General seeding recommendations are between 40-60 lbs per acre for fiber production and 20-40 lbs per acre for grain production. Factors that go into determining the optimal seeding rate for hemp include the seed purity and germ, variety, and local conditions

  • Irrigation: When cultivating hemp, you must provide consistent and appropriate irrigation to ensure proper moisture levels. Hemp requires adequate water during the growing season

  • Weed Control: It is recommended that you implement weed control measures, such as mulching or cultivation, to reduce competition with hemp plants

  • Fertilization: Apply fertilizers as needed based on soil testing and nutrient requirements. Conventional NPKS (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur) fertilization is recommended to help hemp crops grow optimally

  • Pest and Disease Management: Although Wisconsin does not specifically list pesticides that may be used in the cultivation of hemp, the Bureau of Agrichemical Management regulates the manufacturing, sale, and use of pesticides in Wisconsin. It also regulates the manufacturing and sale of fertilizers and soil and plant additives in the state. You may contact the Bureau for approved pesticides to use for hemp cultivation in Wisconsin

  • Harvesting: It is recommended that you harvest hemp plants when they reach the appropriate maturity for the intended purpose (fiber, grain, or CBD production). Timing varies depending on the desired product and local regulations. Hemp grown for seed is usually harvested between 105 to 115 days following planting

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin residents are allowed to purchase smokable hemp flowers. Smokable hemp flowers are available at local stores and from online retailers. Some of the places where residents may purchase hemp flower include smoke shops, gas stations, CBD stores, convenience stores, and online retailers specializing in hemp and CBD products. The state does not limit the amount of hemp flowers residents can buy. Businesses are also allowed to ship hemp flowers into the state as hemp products containing no more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC are legal federally and may be shipped across state lines.

Hemp vs THC

Hemp is a cannabis plant type that contains less than 0.3% THC. THC is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis that produces the "high" associated with marijuana use, while hemp has a low THC concentration. THC can be found in both marijuana and hemp plants but is more common in marijuana plants. There are over 100 different cannabinoids found in cannabis, but THC is the most well-known.

Hemp-derived THC products are permitted to be sold in Wisconsin, provided the THC content of the products is less than 0.3%.

Hemp vs CBD

Hemp and CBD are not the same. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant, while CBD is a compound found in high concentrations in hemp plants. CBD is the second most popular compound in cannabis, after THC. Hemp-derived CBD is legal in Wisconsin. However, the THC content of the products must be less than 0.3% in order to be legal in the state.

Hemp Applications

Aside from its nutritional uses, hemp is a versatile crop that can be used in other applications, such as:

  • Fiber: Hemp fibers are strong and durable and can be used to make a variety of products, including textiles, clothing, rope, and paper
  • Building materials: Hemp fibers are used to make insulation, concrete, and other building materials. Hemp is also a renewable resource, and its production is more environmentally friendly than the production of many other building materials
  • Biofuels: Hemp can be used to produce biodiesel, ethanol, and other biofuels. Biofuels are renewable energy sources that can help to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels
  • Cosmetics: Hemp oil and other hemp extracts are used in a variety of cosmetics products, including soaps, lotions, and shampoos. Hemp products are known for their moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties
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