Minnesota Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a commonly known variety of the Cannabis sativa plant which is rich in the CBD phytocannabinoid. Hemp, unlike marijuana, has no psychoactive qualities since it contains minute amounts of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis plants. Hemp became a domesticated crop many centuries ago, as farmers cultivated the plant for medical and nutritional uses. Both "hemp" and "industrial hemp" are often used interchangeably, the only differences between both terms are the manner and purpose of cultivation of the hemp plant. While many people cultivate hemp for its CBD properties which may be used for medicinal purposes, others grow hemp for its fiber in order to make textiles, biofuels, and plastics. When hemp is cultivated for industrial purposes, it may be considered industrial hemp.

Due to their physical similarities, marijuana and hemp are frequently mistaken for each other. Hemp and marijuana might seem identical to the untrained eye, but there are significant distinctions. Hemp leaves are slender, while marijuana leaves are often considerably plumper. In addition, marijuana plants sometimes resemble short shrubs, but hemp plants are tall and thin, with most of their leaves growing at the top. That does not imply that marijuana plants cannot grow tall, although the most prominent marijuana plant will still appear shrubbery. Although hemp and marijuana have similar appearances and odors, marijuana's high THC content makes it intoxicate users, whereas hemp is unlikely to cause intoxication in its consumers.

Many parts of the hemp plant are often used in making nutritional and medicinal products for consumers. These include hemp seeds, flowers, hearts, milk, and oil. Hemp seeds are the nut-like seeds of the hemp plant. They are a nutrient-dense source of zinc, manganese, magnesium, iron, and vitamin E. Hemp flowers contain substantial amounts of cannabinoids such as CBD. They are used in the treatment of depression and anxiety due to their soothing effects on consumers. Smoking hemp flowers also produce quicker results than other ways of consuming hemp buds.

Hemp seeds with the shells removed are known as hemp hearts. Because of its high protein content and heart-healthy lipids, hemp hearts are an excellent source of protein and healthy fats. Hemp milk comes from the seeds of the hemp plant. It is a common alternative to dairy milk and contains healthy fats, high-quality protein, and minerals. Hemp oil, also called hemp seed oil, is made by crushing hemp seeds to make an oil high in omega fatty acids. As a natural pain reliever, the hemp seed oil is often used topically or taken orally. Hemp oil can be used as a massage oil to relieve pain in aching joints

Is Hemp Legal in Minnesota?

Yes. The first step toward legalizing hemp in the United States and Minnesota began with the 2014 Farm Bill. The Bill permitted hemp to be grown but still considered the plant a Schedule I Controlled Substance and subject to the oversight of the Drug Enforcement Authority (DEA). Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp cultivation for research purposes in the United States, where the growth and cultivation of the plant are legal under state law. The cultivation of hemp was limited to institutions of higher education or state departments of agriculture for agricultural or academic research or under the administration of a state agricultural pilot program.

In 2015, the Minnesota legislature enacted legislation creating Chapter 18K in the state's revised statutes. Also called The Industrial Hemp Development Act, Chapter 18K defined hemp as an agricultural crop and authorized the Minnesota Commission of Agriculture to establish a pilot program to allow higher education institutions to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for academic or agricultural research purposes.

In 2018, the United States introduced another Farm Bill which went several steps further from the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill. These steps include the legalization of the commercial production of hemp and the exclusion of the plant from the definition of marijuana under the United States Controlled Substance Act, as long as the crop does not contain more than 0.3% THC.

While the 2018 Farm Bill boosts hemp production potential, it does not provide a framework in which growers may cultivate it as freely as other crops. In place of the DEA, the USDA now has the jurisdiction to regulate hemp and supervise commercial production operations run by state and tribal governments. The 2018 Farm Bill also established a shared federal and state regulatory authority over hemp, specifying the processes states must follow to design hemp regulatory plans and submit them for approval to the United States Secretary of Agriculture.

Following up on the 2018 Farm Bill, the Minnesota legislature amended the definition of hemp in Chapter 18K.02 of the Minnesota Revised Statutes, clarifying that products containing cannabinoids derived from cannabis sativa plants are not controlled substances as long as they contain no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC. The United States Department of Agriculture published the Final Rule, which formed the regulatory framework for all hemp cultivation nationwide, on January 19, 2021. The USDA approved the State of Minnesota Industrial Hemp Plan on May 6, 2021.

Minnesotans are permitted to grow hemp indoors, provided they have obtained the necessary licenses and have registered their growing locations. Indoor hemp growing covers cultivation carried out in an enclosed area, whether a greenhouse, building, or hoop house. Per Minnesota regulations, hemp growers must register indoor spaces as separate grow locations, even if they are only starting seeds there before transplanting. However, the state prohibits the growing, processing, or storing of hemp inside a residential dwelling unit. Except where otherwise prohibited by local ordinance, hemp may be cultivated in areas zoned for agriculture. In accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp may be transported across state lines. However, it is recommended that you contact the receiving state to find out if they have any specific rules prohibiting shipping hemp or hemp materials.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Minnesota?

Hemp products designated as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), such as hemp seed oil, hemp seed protein powder, and hulled hemp seeds, are legal in Minnesota. These products are derived from hemp seed and contain only trace amounts of THC. In Minnesota, these products may be sold as food or added as food ingredients. Hemp materials from other parts of the hemp plant beside the seed may not be added to food ingredients.

Also, HF 3595, signed by Governor Tim Walz in June 2022, permitted the sale and consumption of non-intoxicating cannabinoids such as food, beverages, gummies, hard candies, chocolate, and topicals that do not contain more than 0.3% THC. The Bill permitted Minnesotans to consume edible cannabinoid products containing no more than 5 mg of any THC per serving and 50 mg of any THC per package, regardless of whether the THC is delta-9 or delta-8.

While you can smoke hemp legally in Minnesota, it is recommended that hemp is not smoked while driving or in public places as it may cause you some inconveniences from law enforcement due to its resemblance with marijuana.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Minnesota?

Although Minnesota does not permit its municipalities to prohibit hemp cultivation within their jurisdictions, the state allows its municipalities to enact ordinances that determine where hemp may be cultivated within their borders.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process in Minnesota

In order to grow or process hemp in Minnesota, you must obtain the applicable license from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The MDA issues the following types of hemp licenses in the state:

  • Grower License: This license permits the licensee to grow raw hemp in Minnesota for commercial or research purposes
  • Processor License: The Minnesota hemp processor license permits the licensee to obtain raw hemp materials for commercial processing purposes

Note that if you are applying for a hemp grower or processor license for the first time, you must consent to a criminal background check by submitting your fingerprints to the MDA. After completing the application, an MDA program staff will send an email to your email address with a blank fingerprint card and information on how to complete the background check. If you have a felony conviction for a controlled substance-related offense in the past ten years, you will be ineligible to receive a hemp grower or processor license from the MDA. 

An application for a hemp grower or processor license may be completed online through the MDA license application and renewal portal or by mail. To complete an application online:

  • Visit the MDA license application and renewal portal
  • Select hemp licensing from the license type dropdown
  • Select "apply for license"
  • Follow the prompts to get an access code to verify your identity via email or phone
  • After verifying your identity, follow the rest prompts to complete the application process 

To complete a Minnesota hemp grower or processor license by mail:

MDA Finance and Budget Division

Attention: Cashier

625 Robert Street North

St. Paul, MN 55155

  • Send the completed grower or processor application form, and the informed consent background check request form to:

MDA Plant Protection

Attention: Industrial Hemp Pilot Program

625 Robert Street North

Saint Paul, MN 55155-2538

For more information on obtaining a hemp grower or processor license in Minnesota, contact the IHPP (Industrial Hemp Pilot Program) by calling (651) 201-6123 or email Margaret.Wiatrowski@state.mn.us.

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

A hemp grower license costs $150, while a hemp processor license costs $250. However, each hemp cultivation or processing location will be approved for a fee of $250. Hence, the total fees associated with a Minnesota hemp grower license and a hemp processor license are $400 and $500, respectively. Note that each licensee must have at least one registered location. A hemp license expires on December 31 of the year issued. The renewal fee is the same as the initial application fee. A licensee must reapply before the expiration of the license to maintain participation in the Minnesota Industrial Hemp Program.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is also authorized to collect fees for the certification of hemp crops through THC testing. There is a $100 fee for each sample for THC testing and a $250 fee for an inspection of a hemp sample beyond the first THC testing. The MDA charges a $50 fee for any license changes made after the initial application period. Changes include amendments to the license holder's name, adding a processor or grower category, and adding or changing processing or grow locations.

How to Grow Hemp in Minnesota

If you decide to cultivate hemp, you must determine if you plan to grow the plant indoors or outdoors. Your indoor or outdoor grow area will determine the materials or equipment needed to grow the plant. If you intend to grow hemp indoors, you can control the humidity, climate, water, and lighting conditions available in the grow area. If you plan to grow hemp outdoors, you do not have to worry about the climate or lighting the plants will get, as nature provides the crop with these requirements. However, deficient outdoor conditions may lead to unhealthy or poor yields. For instance, an extremely wet season might saturate hemp plants and negatively impact crop yields.

To grow hemp plants in Minnesota, consider the following steps:

  • Obtaining good seeds: The first step in cultivating hemp is obtaining good quality hemp seeds with good genetics. The seeds must be viable and healthy. Signs of a healthy seed include a plumpy appearance that can withstand minor pressure and a deep brown, sometimes tiger-striped appearance
  • Preparing the soil: One of the most critical steps in growing hemp indoors or outdoors is preparing the soil. Not only will you need nutrient-rich soil, you also need to till the soil to ensure it is well-aerated and ready for planting. Some soil packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals can be bought off the shelf at a local store. If your soil does not have the appropriate vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, you will need to buy these supplements to add to it. This will make sure that your soil is suitable for growing hemp.
  • Plant the seeds: If you are growing hemp indoors, you may plant the seeds in a planting tray so they can sprout and grow into seedlings. About two weeks should be enough time for this process. Make sure to provide the seeds with plenty of water once a week so they can grow into strong seedlings. If you intend to grow hemp outdoors, you should consider planting the seeds in April, May, or June. During this period, you are likely to get the soil temperature to be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Maintenance and care: The first six weeks after seeding are the most critical to the survival of your hemp crop. The seedlings must be provided with sufficient amounts of water and light. Once each week over these six weeks, you will need to water the sprouts well.

After the seedlings have matured into small plants, they need less individual care than they did as infantile seedlings. Nevertheless, you should continue to monitor them to ensure that they get sufficient sunshine, water, and heat throughout this phase. This stage of development lasts from 6 to 16 weeks. You should thus prepare to apply pesticides or provide any nutrients, such as nitrogen, that the hemp plant may be deficient in. Between days 90 and 100, the plant will begin to produce flowers with exposed seeds

  • Harvest: Around 120 days after seeding, or between September and October (depending on when you sowed the seeds), you should be able to harvest your hemp plant. When the hemp plant is ready to be harvested, you will need to trim its flowers using garden shears. To do this, you will remove the hemp flowers and store them in a dry, dark location
  • Storing, processing, and packaging: Once the hemp has been harvested, it must be kept in an airtight area with little light and humidity. This will prevent the hemp from rotting or losing its aroma. You may store the hemp for about one week prior to processing and packaging 

Hemp may be grown indoors or outdoors; however, no growing may be done within residential units. A hemp grower may cultivate hemp on a rented land provided the landowner has given consent to allow hemp cultivation on the property.

For information on pesticides that may be used in cultivating hemp in Minnesota, visit the pesticide overview and specific pesticide information pages of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) website. You may also contact the MDA's Pesticide and Fertilizer Management Division at (651) 201-6006.

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Minnesota?

Hemp flower is legal in Minnesota pursuant to Chapter 18K of the Minnesota Revised Statutes, provided it contains no more than 0.3% THC. You may purchase smokable hemp flower in approved dispensaries and hemp flower shops in the state. Also, smokable hemp flowers are available through online stores. Minnesota does not restrict the amount of hemp flowers that consumers may purchase.

Hemp vs. THC

THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid found in trace amounts in the hemp plant. THC is available in both hemp and marijuana but is more commonly found in marijuana. Per the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bill, hemp plants may not contain more than 0.3% THC by dry weight. Hemp-derived THC products may be sold or purchased in Minnesota.

Hemp vs. CBD

CBD is one of the over 100 cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. CBD can be found in both hemp and marijuana but is contained in large quantities in the hemp plant. Hemp-derived CBD products may be sold or purchased in Minnesota.

Hemp Applications

Hemp is a plant known for its various properties and applications. Besides the more commonly known medicinal uses, hemp can also be used in the production of:

  • Fuel: Hemp may be used to produce biodiesel and bioethanol. Pressing hemp seeds to extract fats and oils yields biodiesel. Hemp-derived biofuels do not give off sulfur emissions like other fuel types
  • Textile: For decades, industrial hemp has been used as the primary fiber in manufacturing textiles such as garments, clothes, carpets, shoes, furniture, and headgear. This is mainly because hemp fibers are absorbent, durable, softer, and warmer than cotton and other common fabrics 
  • Construction and Cleaner Environments: Hemp fiber's high strength, flexibility, and thermal and insulating properties make it one of the most attractive options for building applications. It is being utilized as a replacement for wood in insulating panels and planks and as the primary component of compact bricks for outdoor and interior buildings and roofing, replacing ordinary bricks
Minnesota Hemp Overview