Maine Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a low-THC cannabis plant often cultivated for fiber, CBD, and food. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, the hemp plant and its derivatives must contain no more than 0.3% THC on dry weight. THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis plants like hemp and marijuana. Unlike hemp, marijuana contains higher concentrations of THC, with some strains containing up to 25% THC or more. THC in marijuana often produces psychoactive effects such as euphoria and hallucinations. On the other hand, hemp does not cause such high sensations.

Before the federal ban on cannabis plants in 1937, manufacturers cultivated hemp mainly for its fiber. Now, hemp's nutrient-rich seed is used to make food and skin care products. Manufacturers also grow hemp flowers to produce CBD oil, which physicians often recommend for treating neurodegenerative diseases.

Common derivatives of hemp in Maine include the following:

  • Hemp milk: This is made by grinding and soaking hemp seeds in water. The plant-based milk is similar to traditional milk in color and texture. The nutty flavor makes it unique and suitable for consumption. Hemp seed milk may be recommended for skin, bone, and heart health

  • Hemp heart: This is the unshelled part of hemp seeds that can be eaten raw or used as supplements. Like other products derived from hemp seeds, hemp hearts do not contain CBD or THC

  • Hemp oil: Made from cold-pressing hemp seeds, hemp oil contains antioxidants and essential fatty acids. It may be consumed raw orally or applied to the skin

  • Hemp extract: This is made from hemp leaves, stalks, and flowers. Unlike hemp oil, hemp extract contains CBD, terpenes, and other cannabinoids. Hemp extract or CBD oil is believed to help in treating or managing chronic pain, oxidative stress, insomnia, seizures, and anxiety

Is Hemp Legal in Maine?

Yes. Maine legalized hemp in 2015, one year after the 2014 Farm Bill became effective. Also known as the U.S. Agricultural Act of 2014, the 2014 Farm Bill permitted hemp cultivation for only academic and agricultural research purposes. According to the bill, states may create hemp programs and regulations which align with the federal law. The 2014 Farm Bill distinguished hemp from marijuana by restricting the THC amount in hemp to 0.3%.

Hemp became fully legal in the U.S. through the 2018 Farm Bill. This law removed hemp from DEA's Schedule 1 drugs, making it legal for Maine residents to cultivate, buy, possess, and transport it across state lines. Like the 2014 Farm Bill, states, including Maine, can create hemp regulations and programs. Although there are no age or possession limitations, residents may only consume hemp products containing no more than 0.3% THC.

Maine created its Industrial Hemp Program in 2015 after the passage of LD 4. The Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) is responsible for creating the state's hemp regulations and providing licenses to hemp growers. The DACF does not regulate hemp processors and handlers. However, processors and handlers must comply with FDA's rules on CBD and other hemp-derived products. Maine permits the sale of all hemp-based products containing no more than 0.3% THC. Residents can buy hemp products from licensed marijuana dispensaries. Carrying hemp products across states is also permitted, provided the THC content does not exceed 0.3%.

What Hemp Products Are Legal in Maine?

All hemp-derived products are legal in Maine as long as they contain no more than 0.3% THC. The following hemp products can be sold in Maine:

  • CBD oil and other CBD-infused products, such as edibles and topicals

  • Hemp fiber products

  • Hemp seed products

  • Hemp extract

  • Hemp-derived Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC products

There are no age or possession limits for hemp products. However, most local stores do not sell smokable hemp flowers and other hemp products to persons younger than 21. Residents may smoke hemp on private properties but not in public spaces like sidewalks, streets, buses, restaurants, and parks. It is illegal to smoke hemp while driving cars or trucks.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Maine?

No, municipalities in Maine cannot restrict hemp cultivation or processing within their borders. However, they can pass local ordinances to regulate the location and zoning of hemp cultivation and processing businesses.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process in Maine

Cultivating hemp for commercial purposes in Maine requires the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) license. Hemp processors, on the other hand, are required to follow FDA's regulations when processing hemp for foods and health-based products. The following are the major steps when applying for a Maine hemp grower license:

Hemp Licensing Program

Maine DACF-Horticulture Program

28 State House Station

Augusta, ME 04333-0028

Applicants must include a non-refundable $100 application fee when submitting their applications. The DACF usually reviews all applications and sends Draft Hemp License Agreements to applicants within 10 days. Applicants must sign the agreement and mail it back to the DACF with the complete registration fees. After registration, applicants must register their grow sites at the local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA).

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

The cost of a hemp grower license in Maine includes the following:

  • Non-refundable application fee: $100

  • License fee: $500

  • Outdoor hemp growers: $50 per acre

  • Indoor hemp growers: $0.25 per square foot

Applicants must pay the $100 application fee when submitting their application. Other fees should be paid after the DACF approves the applications. The DACF accepts only money orders and checks. Hemp grower's licenses in Maine expire on April 30 every year, after which applicants must register for new licenses.

How to Grow Hemp in Maine

In Maine, only growers with signed Final License Agreements from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) can cultivate hemp legally. Hemp seeds are usually available from local seed banks. When buying hemp seeds for cultivation, the DACF advises growers to keep records of the following:

  • The name of the seed supplier

  • The origin of the seed

  • The THC concentration of the seeds’ parent plants

Growers must include these records in the planting report, which must be submitted to the DACF within 14 days after planting.

The first step in growing hemp involves soil preparation. It is best to grow hemp in well-drained, loamy soil with a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.5. Growers may use organic matter to boost the soil quality. Planting the hemp seeds at the correct depth and spacing is also vital for proper growth. Hemp seeds are typically planted about 0.5 to 1 inch deep while the spacing should be 6 inches apart. This way, the seeds germinate and grow without being too far below the surface, where they may not get enough sunlight and moisture to sprout. Notably, hemp plants require regular irrigation, particularly during early growth.

Growers should monitor soil moisture levels and adjust irrigation to ensure the plants get enough water. Generally, hemp seeds should start germinating in about 7 to 14 days, while it takes 120 to 180 days to reach maturity. Hemp growers in Maine must notify the DACF 30 days before harvesting mature hemp plants. Indoor growers can plant at any time of the year but must ensure proper lighting systems and ventilation. However, outdoor hemp growers in Maine may need to wait until May or June to plant hemp seeds. The DACF provides licensed hemp growers with resources on pest management. These resources include Approved Pesticides Labeled for Hemp Cultivation and Integrated Pest Management updates. Growers can also use registered pesticides suitable for hemp cultivation provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Maine?

Possessing and buying smokable hemp flowers is legal in Maine. Residents can buy dry smokable hemp flowers from local stores and online retailers. Although smokable hemp flowers are legal, most local stores often refuse to sell to minors in Maine. There are no restrictions on the amount of hemp flowers residents can possess at once. Marijuana dispensaries licensed by the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy can sell hemp flowers and other hemp-derived products to persons aged 21 or older. They may not smoke hemp flowers in public places or while driving. Shipping consumable hemp with no more than 0.3% THC into and outside the state is legal.

Hemp vs THC

Hemp and THC are two different aspects of the cannabis plant. Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa plants containing low amounts of THC (usually 0.3% or less by dry weight). On the other hand, THC is the principal psychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis plants like hemp and marijuana. In Maine, hemp and high-THC products are legal for production and consumption. However, hemp-derived THC products are legal in the US, while marijuana-derived THC is not.

Hemp vs CBD

Hemp and CBD (cannabidiol) are related, but not the same thing. CBD is a cannabinoid found naturally in abundance in hemp and marijuana. Hemp is a cannabis plant that contains no more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. While hemp can be used for industrial and food purposes, CBD is known mainly for its health benefits. Hemp and CBD products are legal in Maine. However, federal laws permit only CBD products produced from hemp and contain below 0.3% THC.

Hemp Applications

People are generally aware of the high CBD amount in hemp plants, which is responsible for its health benefits. However, hemp is versatile and can be used to make the following products:

  • Plastic: Manufactured from hemp fiber, hemp-based plastics are 100% biodegradable compared to traditional non-renewable plastics. Hemp plastics are also stronger and more durable than conventional plastics

  • Fuel: Hemp seed is a good source of biofuels, such as hemp biodiesel and ethanol (also known as heptanol). These plant-based biofuels are eco-friendly and cheaper to produce than typical fossil fuels

  • Clothing: Hemp fibers are also used in the textile industry due to their similar properties to cotton. Apart from clothing, bedding made with hemp is usually more comfortable and absorbs moisture to provide a dry sleeping environment

  • Foods: Hemp seeds and flowers may be processed to make products like hemp milk, hearts, and oils. These food products are rich in vitamins, protein, minerals, and amino acids

  • **Cosmetics: **Hemp seed oils are good as foods and are used to manufacture skin care products. Due to the calming effects on the skin, which can help reduce inflammation, beauty companies use hemp to make lotions, anti-aging oils, and soaps

  • Hempcrete: Also known as hemp-lime, hempcrete is made of hemp, lime, and other natural materials. Hempcrete is durable, flexible, and resistant to cracking. These properties make hempcrete suitable, especially for buildings in areas with high seismic activities

  • Ropes and sails: Hemp fibers twisted, woven, and braided can be used to make ropes. Such ropes can withstand extreme weather and are resistant to mold.

  • Paper: Pulp made from hemp fibers is thicker and soft, making it suitable for paper production. Compared to conventional wood-based paper, hemp paper is sustainable, recyclable, and durable

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