Montana Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis Sativa with less than 0.3% THC. The hemp plant is low in THC but high in CBD. The low amount of THC in hemp does not produce a euphoric feeling. Hemp is no longer a controlled substance, and it is now federally legal. Its seed is used for food, and its fiber is for making materials. Due to the hemp plant's numerous uses, it is sometimes called industrial hemp. Hemp has tall and skinny leaves concentrated at the top of the plant. They grow close together and require minimal care.

Marijuana is also a variant of the Cannabis Sativa species. However, it is a psychoactive drug with a high amount of THC. Although legal for recreational and medical use in Montana, marijuana possession and use remain illegal federally. Marijuana plants are broad with large protruding leaves with jagged edges. Theys require a large controlled space in a warm environment to grow.

The nuts found in a hemp plant are the hemp seeds. They are edible and may be consumed raw or processed. It is highly nutritious and packed with proteins, vitamins, and minerals. They are used in protein powders, dietary supplements, and animal feed. Hemp flowers are the unprocessed buds produced by the female hemp plant at maturity. They contain CBD in abundance, making them an excellent source of CBD oil. Hemp extract is derived from the seeds, leaves, stalk, and flowers of hemp. It is high in CBD but very low in THC and is used in dietary supplements and beauty products. Hemp oil is derived from the cold-pressed seeds of the hemp plant. The oil is high in CBD with little to no THC. Hemp oil is non-intoxicating and can be used as a culinary oil. Hemp oil, known as hemp seed oil, is commonly used to produce plastic, lubricants, fuels, paints, and beauty products.

The squishy inner part of the hemp seed after unshelling is the hemp hearts. They are an excellent source of plant-based protein and may be consumed raw. Hemp hearts can be processed into hemp powder, hemp butter, hemp milk, and hemp flour. Hemp hearts have trace amounts of CBD and THC. Hemp milk is plant-based milk derived from the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp milk contains trace amounts of THC and is obtained by blending the seeds with water. Hemp milk can be used in place of cow milk in any recipe.

Is Hemp Legal in Montana?

Yes, hemp is legal in Montana. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2014 distinguishes hemp from marijuana by defining hemp as a cannabis Sativa L plant with no more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. The Act permitted limited cultivation and authorized the states Departments of Agriculture to oversee and regulate hemp pilot programs geared towards determining the benefits of hemp cultivation for individuals and businesses.

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 is expansive. It authorizes hemp cultivation beyond the scope of the pilot program. The Act permits the transportation of hemp-based products across state lines and does not restrict the use, sale, transportation, and possession of hemp-derived products, provided its production complies with the law.

Montana had hemp laws before the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2014. In 1999, Montana passed a resolution to repeal the federal government restrictions on industrial hemp and treat it as an industrial and agricultural product. In 2001, the Montana Legislature passed SB 261, approving industrial hemp as an agricultural crop. The Act requires cultivators to obtain a license to grow hemp. It further requires that hemp cultivators and sellers notify the Department of Agriculture before growing and selling hemp.

Montana enacted SJ 20 in 2009, urging Congress to eliminate federal restrictions on domestic hemp production. The Montana Department of Agriculture (DOAG) amended five hemp laws in 2019 to reflect the 2018 Agricultural improvement Act. By 2021, Montana classified hemp as an agricultural product and licenses the cultivation, harvesting, processing, sales, and purchase of hemp plants by persons who meet the requirement. In 2022, the state released its hemp plan to comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Montana residents may grow or process hemp in any approved location within the state, provided they have a state-issued hemp license. The state permits transportation of hemp across state lines. However, hemp transporters must have a copy of their state or federally-approved hemp license and a bill of lading stating the destination of the individual receiving the hemp.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Montana?

All hemp-derived products are legal in Montana, provided they contain 0.3% THC or less. Residents may cultivate hemp grains for edibles or food products after procuring a hemp processor license from the DOAG. It is legal to smoke hemp in Montana. However, Montana’s Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in enclosed public spaces, including public and private offices, stores, health care facilities, public schools, business vehicles, public transportation, bars, casinos, and restaurants. The Act prohibits smoking in a work vehicle, making it illegal for truckers to smoke hemp while driving.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Montana?

Yes. Hemp cultivators must adhere to city, county, and tribal laws. For instance, Montana does not regulate hemp cultivation within the boundaries of the tribal reservation. Therefore, businesses and individuals intending to cultivate or process hemp within the reservation boundaries must contact the resident tribe for its hemp licensing requirements.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process in Montana

Individuals and businesses must obtain a Montana hemp license to grow hemp within the state. The DOAG issues the hemp cultivation license in two stages. The first stage is the hemp license application. The DOAG issues the applicant a Planting Permit after completing this phase. The permit enables the individual or business to purchase live plants and seeds. It also authorizes the cultivation of hemp. The Montana DOAG issues the license annually and requires the following documents at the initial license application stage:

  • Business entity information
  • Contact information of each key partner
  • An FBI criminal history report for all principal partners
  • Detailed information on the variety or strain petitioned for authorization
  • A copy of the seed label issued by the seed provider
  • The completed hemp license application form
  • Application fees

To obtain complete licensure, applicants must proceed to the second stage. In this phase, the applicants must submit a Hemp Planting Report. The report should contain details about the hemp plant. After completing the second stage, the Montana DOAG issues the hemp cultivator a Production License. The production license authorizes the manufacturing, harvest, and transportation of hemp. The planting report should contain the following for each variety or strain:

  • The name of the variety cultivated or the common name of the strain
  • The units and quantity of land cultivated
  • The legal description of the growing site, including the longitude and latitude
  • The county of the cultivation site
  • The grow type, outdoors or indoors
  • The estimated harvest period
  • The target market
  • The landowners' information

The Montana DOAG issues hemp processor license for businesses and individuals that process hemp plants. A processor license authorizes a business or person to produce hemp derivatives that can be added to products used for food, oils, supplements, fiber, or drugs. There are two parts to the license. Part A issues license to persons who process hemp florals and root extracts. Part A license allows for the processing of all items under Part B. Part B approves licenses for persons processing hemp seed, hemp grain, hemp oil, and fiber. Hemp processors in Montana must obtain a separate license for each processing site. The processor license is valid for one year.

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

Montana DOAG identifies four categories of hemp cultivars. The cultivar chosen by the hemp cultivator determines the license application fees. The hemp cultivation license fee for a category A and B cultivar is $850. The department charges a $250 testing fee for each additional sample and a $250 for inspection and sampling fees. The application fee for cultivating hemp on the Category C cultivar is $1,100. There is a $250 charge for testing, inspecting, and sampling each new sample. Late or incomplete documentation attracts additional fees of $100, irrespective of the cultivar. Change of variety or strain after application costs $50.

It costs $2,500 to obtain a license for processing hemp florals and root extracts annually. Hemp processors of grains, seed oil, fiber, and seed pay an annual hemp license processor fee of $1,000.

How to Grow Hemp in Montana

Depending on the species, hemp plants grow within 8-16 weeks. They thrive in hot and humid environments and require well-drained soil with a temperature above 50°F and a pH between 6.0 - 7.5. Hemp plants need 6 - 8 hours of sunlight daily, and it is best cultivated in late winter to early spring. The following steps are required to grow hemp from seeds in Montana:

  • Check the soil’s condition and supplement with recommended minerals where necessary
  • During planting, the depth of the hemp seeds in the ground should be ½ to 1 inch deep
  • Space hemp seeds at least 4 - 6 inches when planting
  • Deeply water the hemp plants at least once a week, twice daily
  • After hemp seeds germinate, spread a water-soluble, nitrogen-based fertilizer over the plant, and water immediately
  • Use a safe pre-emergent herbicide to kill unwanted plants

Hemp and marijuana grow differently despite being from the same plant species. Hemp plants are mostly grown outdoors and have tall and skinny leaves. They require less space for planting and little monitoring, especially if cultivated for fiber. They reach maturity within 4 months.

Marijuana plants have shorter, bushier, and thick leaves with sticky resins. They are generally cultivated in greenhouses or indoors. They require space for growth, up to four square feet per plant, to reduce bacteria and mold risk. Marijuana plants thrive with sunlight for up to 12 hours daily. Depending on the species and growing environment, indoor or greenhouses, marijuana plants take 4 - 8 months to reach maturity. Marijuana requires careful monitoring and pruning to maximize its psychoactive uses. Montana regulations on hemp cultivation include:

  • A licensed hemp cultivator may not grow hemp and marijuana in the same location except in separate buildings within the same location
  • Licensed hemp grower can process their hemp without a hemp processing license
  • A live hemp plants vendor must obtain a Montana seed labeler license
  • Tribal nations in Montana have authority over hemp grown within its boundaries. Hemp cultivators within reservation boundaries must obtain hemp licenses from the tribal nation
  • The Montana DOAG permits hemp in pet food, horse feed, and specialty pet food
  • Hemp cultivators may only purchase and use pesticides registered and approved by the DOAG and the Montana State University Pesticide Education

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Montana?

Smokable hemp flower is legal in Montana, and residents may purchase it from local stores within the state. From CBD and THC stores to vape shops, dispensaries, convenience stores, and wellness centers, Montana residents may legally purchase hemp flowers over the counter. Consumers may also order hemp-derived products online. There is no limit to the amount of hemp flowers Montana residents can purchase, provided the hemp product contains 0.3% THC or less. Montana permits businesses to ship in hemp-derived products. However, such a company must include the hemp license issued by its originating state and a bill of lading detailing the receiver’s destination.

Hemp vs THC

Hemp is cannabis with 0.3% THC or less. THC, a compound found in hemp and marijuana, has a psychoactive and intoxicating effect that gives its user a euphoric feel. However, the THC content in legal hemp is negligible. Hemp is legal in Montana and is grown for agricultural products such as food and non-consumable materials. Hemp-derived THC has therapeutic benefits that help in treating inflammation, epilepsy, anxiety, and chronic pain. THC also helps reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality. In Montana, a license is not required to sell hemp-derived THC products.

Hemp vs CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical found in hemp with no intoxication properties. CBD is derived from hemp and marijuana. In Montana, hemp-based CBD and marijuana-derived CBD are legal. Hemp has a high amount of CBD. Residents do not require a prescription to purchase hemp-based CBD, while businesses may sell hemp-derived CBD with 0.3% THC concentration or less without legal restrictions.

Hemp Applications

Aside from its medicinal benefits, hemp can be used to produce various commercial and industrial products in Montana including the following:

  • Oils and Varnishes: Hemp seeds are high in fat. Oils extracted from the seed can be used as wood varnishes and flooring protections to protect them from absorbing water
  • Ropes and Twines: The fiber from the hemp plant is strong and durable and can be used to produce rope, yarn, cable, string, canvas, sails, and twine
  • Animal Feed: Hemp and its derivatives containing no more than 0.3% THC can be used in animal feed. Hemp seeds make excellent food for birds, while hemp seed cakes can be consumed by most farm animals
  • Textile: Hemp fiber may be used in producing clothes. Hemp clothing is durable and provides an alternative to cotton clothes. The fibers can also be used for bedding and shoe production
  • Biofuel: Industrial Hemp can be used in the production of hemp biodiesel and hemp ethanol. Hemp biodiesel is made from pressed hemp seed oil which can be used to power diesel engines. Hemp ethanol is made from fermented hemp stalks and used to make fuel
  • Beauty Products: Hemp seed oil is high in fatty acids and acts as an effective moisturizer. Also, hemp seed water, obtained from the steam of distilled hemp seed, is used as a base in most face creams and hair care products
  • Paper: Paper is created from the pulp and fiber of the hemp plant. Hemp paper is tear resistant, easily recycled, and produces more yield than paper from wood
  • Building Materials: Hemp is lightweight, breathable, and mold resistant making it adaptable to construction needs. Also, hempcrete, a mixture of hemp lime and hemp hurds, is easier to use and provides a lightweight insulating material than regular concrete mix
  • Food: Hemp seed may be consumed raw or processed into other consumables. Hemp seeds can be processed into oils, milk, baking powder, cheese substitute, hemp-derived protein powder, and hemp tea
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