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Washington: Industrial Hemp Legalized for Research

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“Hemp, hemp hooray!” is echoing across Washington State as bill 6206 to legalize indsustrial hemp sits on Governor Inslee’s desk awaiting the final signature that will enact it into law. The bill to cultivate and manufacture industrial hemp in the Evergreen State has already passed the House and Senate with flying colors.

Bill 6206 gives the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) the ability to grant grow licenses to industrial hemp farmers. Industrial hemp, as defined in this bill, can be used to produce biofuel, clothes and beauty products. It strictly prohibits the processing of hemp into extract or resin for any medical or recreational use.

The only catch is that you need to participate in a research study in order to cultivate hemp in Washington. The WSDA will begin licensing hemp farmers as a part of the industrial hemp research program in time for the 2016 outdoor growing season.

The bill says the WSDA may only approve growers whose plots will “advance the goals of the department’s industrial hemp research program.”

The industrial hemp research program will be headed by Washington State University. WSU has been tasked with the goal of analyzing how the hemp industry will affect the state on an economic and environmental level, and more specifically whether Washington soils and growing conditions are appropriate for industrial hemp at economically viable levels. This study is also expected to answer whether hemp poses a risk for introducing new diseases or pests to related species, such as hops.

In addition to studying the local market in Washington state, WSU will conduct worldwide research relating to industrial hemp cultivars, production and use. WSU will report its findings to the legislature by January 14, 2017.

If you are a farmer with an interest in this progressive crop, it is easier than you think to get involved. The licenses are valid for one year and may be renewed annually. The requirements for applying to the Washington industrial hemp program are:

  • Name and mailing address of applicant (any natural person, firm, partnership, association, private or public corporation, government entity or other business entity.)
  • GPS coordinate of proposed industrial hemp production fields and legal description of plots.
  • Signed declaration indicating whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor (cannot have had a felony drug conviction within the last ten years)
  • Written consent allowing the WSDA to enter onto grow plots to conduct physical inspections of the hemp. (Cultivars cannot contain over 0.3% THC)
  • Pay a nonrefundable application fee, in an amount not yet determined by the department. (For reference, a similar bill in Oregon has a $ 500 application fee)
  • A record of the license, if issued, must be immediately forwarded to the sheriff of your local county.

This is an exciting opportunity for Washington state to get involved in an industry that Congressional Research Service estimates to be a $ 581 million industry in the U.S.  Washington has been a leader in agricultural production for years and is one of the most productive growing regions in the world. This is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for to advance Washington into the hempire it has the potential to be!


Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett

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