A History of Hemp in Tennessee
Hemp has been an important crop throughout the history of our country and specifically Tennessee. Hemp is a strain of the cannabis plant that was specifically grown for industrial purposes, as it was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber. It was widely grown throughout Middle Tennessee because the soils here were conducive to its production. However, production and processing began to decline as cheaper, synthetic fibers were discovered and state and federal laws became focused on regulating high-THC varieties of the plant.
Current Hemp Laws in Tennessee
Today, hemp production is regulated by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Hemp is defined as Cannabis sativa L. containing 0.3% or less THC. While it is legal to possess and purchase hemp, there are special permits and licenses one must have to grow the plant or move their harvested plants. The present key distinction is between "rooted" hemp and "non-rooted hemp." The existing regulations do not provide a full definition of "rooted" hemp, but it is recognized to include any hemp plant or seed that possesses the potential to grow or to continue to grow.
As of October 31, 2019, the US Department of Agriculture published interum regulations, effective immediately and applicable through November 1, 2021. The USDA regulations govern the federal licensure of hemp production and the overall implementation of the federal 2018 Farm Bill's hemp provisions. These regulations apply in any states that do not have their own proposed hemp regulations. Many states, including Tennessee, presently have existing regulations governing the production of hemp. Tennessee has submitted its regulations to the USDA for approval. That approval is still pending.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture's website, as of November 11, 2019, states that "No immediate changes are expected. Licensed hemp growers in Tennessee will continue to operate under current state regulations at this time." However, the regulatory structure governing the Tennessee hemp industry remains in flux, and new regulations are anticipated at the state level.