The Empire State is quickly becoming a top producer of hemp crops, with over 20,000 acres plants during 2019. Plus, the state’s experienced tremendous growth in demand for CBD products so the Governor signed some important laws to protect producers and consumers alike.
In this article, we’ll talk about those laws, discuss who can legally grow hemp, and explain how to know you’re buying legal hemp flower. Let’s get started!
New York hemp laws
According to New York state laws, “industrial hemp means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
This definition clears up any confusion between hemp and marijuana since they look alike and are both cannabis plants. Before the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) cannabis was an illegal Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). There was no clear distinction between hemp and marijuana, so both were grouped together. But the Farm Bill changed that.
Removing hemp from the list of federally illegal drugs allowed the plant to be grown for commercial purposes as it had for many, many decades in American before it became illegal.
Even before the updated 2018 Farm Bill, there was a 2014 Farm Bill that was signed into law under the Obama Administration. It allowed hemp farming in the U.S. for research purposes.
Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York wanted to take part in this research, so in 2015 he signed the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program into law. This program granted 10 permits to institutions of higher learning, like Cornell University, and others in the state of New York. It gave them the legal ‘go-ahead’ to research the plant as an agricultural commodity.
This pilot program was a huge success. So, by the time the 2018 Farm Bill went into effect, farmers and businesses started taking part in growing the hemp plant for commercial use. But before doing so, they had to apply for a license with the New York State Department of Agriculture (NYSDA).
As of the date of this writing, the three types of licenses available include a grower, manufacture, and extractor license. A license for processors won’t become available until November 2020, and the USDA will oversee that application process.
Full disclaimer: although you can apply for a growers license, that doesn’t mean you can grow hemp in your backyard garden. The licenses only apply for commercial purposes, not personal reasons.
New York state CBD laws
After talking about the history of hemp and the types of available licenses, let’s review the laws regarding CBD products. Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is a major piece of the hemp plant. It’s the most abundant cannabinoid and is highly concentrated in the hemp buds, also called CBD flower.
As the definition stated above, hemp flower and all other CBD hemp-based products must have less than 0.3% THC to retain their legal status. Therefore, in the state of New York, retailers can sell hemp-derived CBD products. However, there is an exception with beverages, which is outlined in Senate Bill S6184A and Assembly Bill A7680A.
These Bills state that a beverage cannot have more than 20mg of cannabidiol per 12 ounces. And it goes on to say that the hemp extract used to make the drink must come from New York grown hemp, and be manufactured within the state.
Due to the popularity and growth of CBD products throughout the state of New York, the state legislature implemented some labeling rules. As of December 9, 2019, the day Governor Cuomo signed Bills S6184A and A7680A, anyone selling hemp products must adhere to the following regulations.
For starters, the product label must contain a warning statement similar to that of an FDA disclosure, that states, “this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” It may also include warnings about not using if under the age of 18, or while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Furthermore, the product should have a QR code that the consumer can scan, which will provide more detailed information such as lab testing results. The label must also include the amount of CBD in milligrams, the number of servings per bottle or package, and a supplement fact panel.
Another requirement relates to the source of hemp. If a product contains hemp that grew outside the U.S. then that information needs to get included.
Before anyone can legally sell a CBD-based product, the state requires testing. This includes testing the hemp crops pre-harvest and testing the cannabinoid levels of the finished product. New York state requires an independent third party lab to perform testing of the THC levels to ensure the plants don’t exceed the 0.3% threshold.
Also, the state doesn’t allow pesticide use, so a lab must confirm this as well. Finally, there is a rule that applies to businesses and persons with an extractor license. He or she must perform the hemp extraction process inside a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) facility.
Is CBD flower legal in New York?
Yes, buying CBD flower in New York is legal. However, you must be at least 18 years old and confirm the hemp strain has less than or equal to 0.3% Delta-9 THC. As you read earlier, the state mandates testing and requires manufacturers and anyone else selling flower or another hemp-based product to label its cannabinoid content, including the amount of THC.
Medical marijuana is legal in New York, which is a huge blessing for patients in need of holistic healing. Yet, this also makes it difficult for legal authorities to know or tell the difference between the two plants. Here’s why it’s a difficult task.
Marijuana flower vs CBD flower
For one, and this is a big one, the two plants look exactly the same. Many of the buds have a bushy or dense look and feel, have light to dark green hues, and are adorned with brownish-orange pistols. And some of the most potent buds have white sparkly crystals, called trichomes.
Also, the smells the flower nugs give off cannot be denied, because they’re very aromatic. Their aroma comes from their unique blend of terpenes. Anything growing from the ground tends to have terpenes. They’re the molecules that give a plant or flower an earthy, piney, floral, or citrusy smell, for example.
Although marijuana and hemp buds both have strong, discernable smells, each CBD strain has a specific smell that makes it unique.
Where the two differ is in their chemical profile. The dominant cannabinoid in the marijuana plant is THC, the intoxicating compound. For hemp, it produces high levels of CBD and only trace amounts of THC. Without having a convenient testing mechanism, there’s no accurate way for a police officer to tell if you’re smoking legal hemp or not.
As such, it’s smart to smoke your CBD buds or pre-rolls in a private space. Well, either way, it’s illegal to smoke any type of cannabis in a public space, so a private area is all you got anyway.
Where to buy CBD flower in New York
With the recent legislative changes around hemp-derived CBD products, it’s much easier and more accessible to buy hemp flower in New York. Whether it be at your local smoke shop, a health and wellness store, or a large, big-name convenience store. There are several perks to buying in person, such as seeing and smelling the hemp buds.
However, you have the option to buy your favorite strains or some CBD moon rocks online. When shopping online, you have the ability to read customer reviews, learn about the company that’s selling the hemp flower, and look over copies of the Certificates of Analysis (COA).
This report, called the COA, shows the results of lab testing. It will tell you the percentage of CBD in the strain, along with the concentration of the other cannabinoids, including THC. In this way, you have an assurance that what you’re about to buy is a legal cannabis product.
But if you do decide to shop in person, make sure to ask for a copy of the third-party lab testing results, also known as the COA.
CBD flower in New York is legal to grow, sell, buy, and consume. If you want to take part in the business side of things and grow or manufacture CBD products, you’ll need a license to do so. Check with the New York State Department of Agriculture for all the requirements and to learn about the application process.
As a consumer, make sure you smoke or consume the buds in your private space. Also, only buy premium hemp flower with lab tests proving the CBD and THC content. Any product above 0.3% THC is illegal, unless you have a state-licensed medical cannabis card.
Besides that, enjoy the wonderful effects of smoking hemp flower, or have fun making your own CBD oil infusion from the buds.