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Michigan Updates to Industrial Hemp Growers Act

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Ashley A. Poindexter
Foster Swift Agricultural Law News

Industrial Hemp GrowerOn March 24, Governor Whitmer approved a bill updating Michigan’s Industrial Hemp Growers Act (the Act). The amendments to the Act bring Michigan’s hemp program into alignment with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s March 22, 2021, updated hemp rule. The changes aim to preserve regulatory certainty for hemp cultivation and assist Michigan hemp growers to ensure they align with national hemp standards.

Positive Changes for Michigan Growers

The bill provides more flexibility for Michigan hemp growers in terms of registration and harvesting. The grower registration cycle now begins on February 1 and ends January 31. Any grower registrations already issued for the 2021 growing season will be valid until January 31, 2022. Growers also have an additional 15 days to harvest their crops after taking an official sample. Prior to the amendments, the Act required farmers to have their crops harvested within 15 days of sending a sample; now, they have up to 30.

The most beneficial change for growers is the option to remediate non-compliant hemp instead of disposing of it. Growers can remediate non-compliant hemp in two ways. The first remediation option is to remove all non-compliant floral material via an approved disposal method. The second option is for the grower to shred the non-compliant industrial hemp plant into a biomass-like material. Once the hemp lot is remediated through one of those two options, the grower can then have a second sample processed. If the sample passes, the grower may harvest the crop as normal.

The bill makes it less likely that a grower will be subject to criminal law enforcement for crop THC level exceedances. In the previous iteration of the Act, a grower could be issued a criminal violation if their industrial hemp exceeded the acceptable THC level, regardless of the significance of the exceedance. Now, a grower will only be held responsible for a negligent violation of the Act if their hemp exceeds the acceptable THC level but does not have more than 1.0% total delta-9-THC on a dry weight basis. A negligent violation is not subject to criminal enforcement. Growers may only be penalized via a negligent violation once per growing season, and additional violations could result in criminal enforcement.

Finally, the bill allows the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to use performance-based sampling that allows for reduced or waived regulatory sampling based on certain variables. MDARD may consider the specific certified seed, varieties yielding consistently compliant hemp, lots used for academic research by a college or university, historical performance of the grower, and other factors in determining whether regulatory sampling may be reduced or waived. 

Restrictive Changes for Michigan Growers

The Act does impose some new restrictions on industrial hemp growers. For example, the Act now requires designated sampling agents to collect official hemp samples. A grower intending to harvest must contact MDARD not more than 30 days or less than 20 days before their anticipated harvest. If the grower is in good standing and does not have any outstanding fees or fines under the Act, MDARD will send out a designated sampling agent to collect samples from each lot of industrial hemp grown. Growers will be responsible for paying the reasonable costs of the official hemp sample collection.

If you have any questions about how the amendments to the Act will affect you or your practices, reach out to a Foster Swift attorney.