Did you know that Arkansas laws regarding the possession of hemp within our state prohibits anyone without a hemp license from even possessing the raw or dried plant material? This means that possessing raw or dried CBD/hemp flower is illegal for legally licensed cannabis patients, but high-THC flower is not. This does not apply to processed hemp products such as extracts, oils, and tinctures which are considered legal. Even if you have a “medical marijuana license” you are still in possession of contraband according to the Arkansas Hemp Act. The act only allows businesses that have a valid hemp license to possess, process, and/or sell the raw or dried plant material. Under current Arkansas state laws, hemp is legal– for those who possess an expensive license for it, that is. Even our state’s cannabis dispensaries are not immune to this law and must possess a license to sell hemp on top of cannabis licenses.
The 2018 US Farm Bill effectively removed hemp and its seeds from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), making it legal to grow and ship hemp (defined as containing less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis) and its products across state lines—provided it was lawfully produced. The bill essentially legitimized the crop for insurance purposes as an agricultural crop rather than a drug or controlled substance. The bill left it up to each state to then decide the formal hemp approval process– as they see fit.
A statement on the Arkansas Department of Agriculture Hemp Department website reveals the conundrum:
“Even though the 2018 Farm Bill removes hemp from the controlled substances list, no person can grow, handle (possess), store, market, or process hemp plants, viable seed, leaf or floral material without first obtaining a hemp license issued by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department).” According to the Arkansas Plant Board, this includes Medical Marijuana patients.
Although both high-THC and high-CBD cannabis are the same plant (only segregated for legal reasons), Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana and Hemp programs are governed by two separate entities– each with differing laws and requirements. According to an unofficial fact-gathering expedition with the Arkansas Plant Board, the ban against selling raw or dried hemp to consumers is due to very loose safety laws governing hemp such as testing requirements and age restrictions on the purchase and possession of the plant material—not to mention the inability to legally tell the difference between possession of hemp or high-THC cannabis without lab testing.
“I find it very ironic that our legislators who fought so hard to prevent Arkansans from using cannabis to “get high” are now restricting its use as a nutritious vegetable and nutraceutical—essentially forcing patients to choose high-THC only plant forms or lose essential hemp ingredients and nutrients”– Melissa Cornwell Founder of DarkHorse Delta
A person caught with disallowed hemp products (raw or dried material as defined by the Arkansas Hemp Act) without a license is in possession of contraband which can be seized by law enforcement. As for any other repercussions, that is at law enforcement’s discretion.
As stated in Arkansas A.C.A. § 2-15-410(b), “Industrial Hemp that is found in this state at any location off the premises of an industrial hemp grower licensee is contraband and subject to seizure by any law enforcement officer, unless the person in possession of the industrial hemp has in his or her possession either: (A) the proper licensing documents under this subchapter, or (B) a bill of lading, or other proper documentation, demonstrating that the industrial hemp was legally imported and is otherwise legally present in this state under applicable state and federal laws relating to industrial hemp.”
There are strict guidelines on how to market raw hemp materials in the state. Licensed industrial hemp growers are only permitted to sell or transfer their raw materials to other licensed growers or processors. Processors can then make the raw materials into “publicly marketable hemp products” which can be sold to retailers and the public at that point.
The full rules and regulations governing hemp in Arkansas can be found here. A full list of restrictions on hemp products in Arkansas can be found here. A full list of rules, fees, and deadlines involved in applying to the Arkansas Hemp Program can be found here. Here is a chart detailing the basic costs involved for getting an Arkansas license to grow, possess, process, or sell hemp:
Reproduced from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture website.
I find it very ironic that our legislators who fought so hard to prevent Arkansans from using cannabis to “get high” are now restricting its use as a nutritious vegetable and nutraceutical—essentially forcing patients to choose high-THC only plant forms or lose essential hemp ingredients and nutrients through its processing. Again, legislation is taking away our choice for more economical cannabis medication and holding us hostage to expensive and potentially less effective products through this legal licensing process.