By Leigh Armstrong 

and Lilly Milman

The Alaska Division of Agriculture is accepting public comment on proposed regulations for an industrial hemp pilot program. The division is working to identify the different types of hemp that would work best for farming, manufacturing and retail sales in Alaska. After taking public comments, the division could revise the proposed regulations before adopting rules for governing the new industry.

The Legislature authorized the pilot program last year.

“With the 2018 (federal) farm bill declassifying industrial hemp as a controlled substance, there is even greater interest in the proposed industry,” Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige said in a June 3 statement, announcing the draft regulations.  

Hemp differs from cannabis in part because of THC, the psychoactive element of the cannabis plant. In order to be classified as hemp, it can’t contain more than 0.3 percent of THC. 

Under the pilot program, hemp growers would need to register with the Division of Agriculture, allowing them to grow, store, transport and sell raw industrial hemp. No processing would be allowed under the grow permit. The pilot program also includes regulations for processors and retailers to register with the state. 

Any hemp growers looking to grow and sell marijuana must also hold a separate marijuana cultivation license and would not be allowed to grow hemp in a residential area or within 3,230 feet (1,000 meters) of other cannabis plants.

Growers must keep a report of everything they’ve grown, and where the seeds come from. 

No hemp harvesting would be allowed until the plant has been sampled and tested for THC content by the Division of Agriculture. If it tests positive above 0.3 percent, but below 1 percent, participants will receive the opportunity to reduce the THC in their plants. The crop must be destroyed if it tests above 1 percent. 

The proposed regulations are open for public comment through 5 p.m. July 3. They can be read on plants.alaska.gov. Written comments can be emailed to industrialhemp@alaska.gov, or submitted through the state’s online portal at notice.alaska.gov, or mailed to Robert Carter, Division of Agriculture, 5310 S. Bodenburg Spur, Palmer, AK 99645.