Nebraska Hemp Overview


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What Is Hemp?

Hemp shares similar properties with marijuana as both are varieties of the cannabis sativa plant. However, they are different in some ways. The levels of THC concentration in hemp and marijuana are the most significant difference between them.

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the federal government defines hemp as cannabis plants that contain 0.3% THC or less. Cannabis plants that surpass the 0.3% THC limit are considered marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and is classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp cultivation and the lawful possession and use of hemp-derived products.

The high level of THC in marijuana often causes psychoactive effects on consumers, making it suitable for recreational or medical use. Unlike marijuana, hemp has non-psychoactive qualities, but it produces therapeutic effects due to high levels of CBD. Marijuana plants and hemp plants have similar looks with green flowers and buds, but marijuana flowers are usually shorter and have more profound complexity than hemp flowers. The hemp plant is versatile and usually farmed for many uses apart from consumption. It is sometimes called industrial hemp because it is also cultivated for producing industrial goods, such as papers, textiles, or building materials. Hemp flowers, hemp seed, hemp extract, and hemp oil are parts and derivatives of hemp plants. Hemp flowers possess high levels of CBD or cannabidiol that can be extracted for use in skin care products or edibles. Hemp seed is a rich source of nutrients suitable for consumption or making other consumer goods. Hemp extract is the concentration of all the compounds in a hemp plant.

Hemp hearts refer to the soft inner part of shelled hemp seeds. They have nutritional benefits and are usually included in plant-based diets. Hemp oil is derived from hemp seeds and has health benefits when used as a supplement. Its benefits include anti-inflammatory properties suitable for pain relief. Hemp milk is made by mixing ground hemp seeds with water. It is a suitable alternative to cow’s milk in beverages or dairy products.

Is Hemp Legal in Nebraska?

Yes, hemp is legal in Nebraska. Historically, hemp was prevalent in the United States for industrial cultivation in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was first regulated with the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, which required cultivators to obtain a federal government license. By 1970, the Controlled Substances Act criminalized all production of marijuana, including hemp. The passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, known as the Agricultural Act of 2014, created a pilot program that permitted state departments of agriculture and universities to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes. Industrial hemp was defined as hemp with a THC level of 0.3% or less on a dry-weight basis. The agricultural pilot program became the precursor for the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp cultivation and retail sale at the federal level.

Nebraska introduced Legislature Bill 657 and Legislature Bill 1152 in response to the 2018 Farm Bill. LB 657 enacted the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act to create a state hemp program regulated by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA). LB 1152 updated the Hemp Farming Act provisions to stop retail stores from selling marijuana products as hemp.

Anyone who grows hemp in Nebraska must obtain a cultivator license, regardless of the amount of hemp or intended use. License holders can cultivate hemp on their property but must comply with the NDA regulations. Individuals with cultivator or processor-handler licenses can legally ship hemp across state lines. They must carry the following while transporting hemp in the state:

  • A bill of lading indicating who owns the hemp, where it was produced, and its destination
  • Proof that the production of the hemp transported complies with the provisions of federal laws

What Hemp Products are Legal in Nebraska?

Hemp products containing no more than 0.3% THC are legal in Nebraska. License holders in the state can cultivate hemp for food products or edibles. Smokable hemp products are legally sold in Nebraska. However, consumers can only smoke hemp on private property. It is illegal to smoke hemp in public places or places of employment. It is also unlawful to smoke hemp while driving.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Nebraska?

No, municipalities in Nebraska cannot restrict hemp cultivation or processing within their jurisdictions. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is solely responsible for hemp regulations statewide. However, municipalities may decide where hemp farms or facilities may be located.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process Hemp in Nebraska

Nebraska requires individuals to obtain a cultivator license from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to grow hemp in the state. Anyone who wants to process or handle hemp must apply for a processor-handler license. Hemp processing refers to producing hemp into various end products, and hemp handling refers to storing hemp plants for a prolonged period or other related activities.

The steps required to apply for a hemp cultivator license in Nebraska are:

  • Download and complete all sections of the application form
  • Obtain and attach an FBI Identity History Summary Check (completed within 60 days of the application submission)
  • Pay a non-refundable application fee of $150 and a cultivator fee of $600 per site
  • Include a colored map of the site for growing hemp that contains:
  1. Site number in the top right corner
  2. Entrances to the site
  3. Field boundaries
  4. Location ID for every facility located on the site

Mail the completed application form alongside the necessary fees and documents to:

Nebraska Department Of Agriculture

Animal and Plant Health Protection

P.O. Box 94756

Lincoln, NE 68509-4756

Phone: (402) 471-2351

Follow these steps to apply for a Nebraska processor-handler license:

  • Download and complete the application form
  • Pay the non-refundable application fee of $150
  • Attach the following to the application
  1. An FBI Identity History Summary Check (completed within 60 days of the application submission)
  2. Processor-handler site registration fee of $1,200 per site
  3. Site modification request form (if applicable)
  4. A site modification fee of $75 (for site modification requests)
  5. A colored map of the site (containing the applicant’s full name, site number in the top right corner, map full location details, the outline and location ID of each building)

Applicants should mail the requirements and completed forms for a processor-handler license to:

Nebraska Department Of Agriculture

Animal and Plant Health Protection

P.O. Box 94756

Lincoln, NE 68509-4756

Applicants must ensure they submit completed applications and include the required documents before submission. Incomplete applications can be corrected within 30 days of initial submission by mailing an updated application. The NDA rejects applications from persons with felony drug convictions in the last ten years. Applicants can check the status of their application a week after submission.

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

The cost of Nebraska hemp cultivator licenses and processor-handler licenses may vary according to how many sites the applicant wishes to register. Below is the fee schedule for both licenses:

  • Hemp Cultivator license
  • Application fee: $150
  • Cultivator site registration fee: $600 per site
  • Site modification fee: $75
  • Hemp Processor-handler license
  • Application fee: $150
  • Processor-handler site registration fee: $1200 per site
  • Site modification fee: $75

Hemp licenses are subject to annual renewals. Late payment for license renewal attracts delinquent fees.

How to Grow Hemp in Nebraska

Individuals interested in growing hemp in Nebraska must first obtain a license from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. License holders must prepare the land that was approved for hemp cultivation. Hemp seeds grow best in well-drained loam soil with a pH between 6 and 7. The seeds can be planted an inch deep in the ground and require regular watering, especially during the early stage of plant growth.

Hemp and marijuana are cultivated differently. Hemp farmers usually grow hemp outdoors on large fields, while marijuana is often grown indoors.

Hemp cultivators in Nebraska can prevent pests and diseases by using pesticides. Although Nebraska has no official list of approved pesticides for hemp cultivation, farmers can use pesticide products approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Hemp crops mature within 100-120 days. However, they may be harvested earlier than this if the cultivation is for fiber production. Hemp plants cultivated for consumption are harvested at full maturity.

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Nebraska?

In Nebraska, smokable hemp flowers are sold online and at local stores. Consumers can also buy hemp flowers at CBD stores or order from CBD websites with delivery services. Nebraska does not have a limit on the amount of hemp flowers that residents can buy. Registered businesses can ship hemp flowers from other states into Nebraska, provided they contain no more than 0.3% THC concentration.

Hemp vs THC

Hemp is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant and is not the same as THC. Hemp contains different cannabinoids, including THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis plants. If the level of THC in hemp surpasses 0.3% concentration, it is considered marijuana. Hemp-derived THC with no more than 0.3% THC is legal in Nebraska.

Hemp vs CBD

CBD is found in cannabis plants, including hemp. It has no psychoactive effects on consumers. Hemp has high levels of CBD, which makes it suitable for therapeutic purposes. CBD can be derived from hemp to make CBD oils or edibles. The retail sale of hemp-derived CBD products is legal in Nebraska, but such products must not have more than 0.3% THC.

Hemp Applications

Apart from medical purposes, hemp has other uses in Nebraska. It can be used to produce industrial goods, including textiles and fabrics. Building materials can also be made from hemp, such as manufacturing hemp wool for house insulation. The pulp derived from the fibers of industrial hemp is suitable for making papers. Another popular application of hemp in Nebraska is its inclusion in plant-based diets.

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