Massachusetts hemp producers and processors may finally be getting some relief, as the state's Cannabis Control Commission (the Commission) recently released guidance on selling hemp products to licensed cannabis retailers in the state.
Hemp growers and processors have been anticipating the guidance since the December passage of the MA Hemp Industry Survive and Thrive amendment included in the state's 2021 fiscal budget.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), products such as hempseed, hempseed oil, building materials, clothes, and other products and materials derived from hemp fiber are eligible for wholesale to cannabis retailers under the new guidance. However, the sale of cannabidiol (CBD) products—aside from topicals and non-food CBD products that do not make any therapeutic claims and are not marketed as a dietary supplement—remains illegal (unless approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the guidance says).
The sale of unprocessed or raw hemp, including flower, for consumer use also remains illegal (though the sale of these products from licensed grower to grower or grower to processor is allowed).
Hemp products sold at licensed cannabis retailers must be sold to consumers 21 or older, according to the guidance.
The new guidance also does not give the Commission regulatory oversight of hemp products. That remains within the jurisdiction of other agencies, including MDAR. “Marijuana Retailers are also not required to track the sale of the products through the Commission’s Seed-to-Sale System of Record but should maintain a record of sale for all Consumer-Ready Hemp Products and are encouraged to consult with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue regarding taxation and other similarly related matters,” the Commission’s guidance states.
Linda Noel, owner of Terrapin Farm in Franklin, Mass., previously told Hemp Grower that she faced many challenges throughout her last three years growing hemp, and if it weren't for the amendment, she would not have grown hemp for the fourth year.
Noel says the guidance passed by the Commission is what she expected, as the Commission cannot change the list of the products permitted for sale. Instead, the state’s laws would have to change—which may be happening soon.
Last week, Sen. Diana DiZoglio filed Amendment 130 to the state Senate’s 2021 budget, says Laura Beohner, the president and co-founder of The Healing Rose Company, a hemp processor and manufacturer of finished skincare products, as well as the co-founder and director of the Massachusetts Hemp Coalition. The bill has the same language as bill H146 introduced to the state’s House of Representatives in March.
The Senate will vote on Amendment 130 on May 25, while the state's House of Representatives will consider bill H146 in a virtual public hearing on June 1.
If passed, the bill would open up the gates for hemp-derived CBD to be added to food, dietary supplements, animal feed, and other products sold in the state. It would also permit the sale of hemp flower to consumers, Noel says.
"We have two shots of it [the bill] getting through," Beohner says. "I will say that all the legislators we've ever talked to or spoken to about hemp are really supportive. It's just kind of about how much noise can we make…so that they know they have to step up and support it. So, we're doing a huge push on social media, and we are having people call and email their reps and senators trying to drum up enough support so that hopefully we can get it passed in one of those two ways."
Although Noel would ultimately like to see the product list expanded, she says the new guidance at least gives her a "market for her crop," but it's not the lucrative market she hoped for.
And while specific CBD products are not permitted for sale under the new guidance, Boehner says she's still excited to get her products in dispensaries and expects to double her wholesale sales this year.
"We've already gotten over probably a dozen inquiries from dispensaries here in Massachusetts who want to carry us," Boehner says. "We've been around since 2016. So, we've been at all the trade shows and local events, so a lot of people know our brand. We're really excited and hoping to get into a lot of those dispensaries with our products."
"We've been ready for this since it passed in December, probably before that," Boehner adds. "We are getting excited for that final day, hopefully in the next two weeks or so that [the guidance] officially goes into effect, and then we can start selling and doing demos in stores, going out to dispensaries and pop-up events—doing all we can to really promote it."