Courtesy Richard A. Howard/USDA-NRCS
The paperwork that precedes planting hemp in Washington has been shortened by the state Department of Agriculture.
A new application form to cultivate the highly regulated cannabis crop requires growers to submit fewer details about their farming experience, business affairs and, if applicable, criminal history.
The agriculture department reworked the form based on the agency’s experience last year and comments from license holders, spokesman Hector Castro said.
“We tried to trim out the extraneous stuff,” he said. “We tried to target just what we need and make it easier for applicants to fill out.”
Washington issued seven one-year licenses to grow, process or market hemp in 2017, the program’s first year. Any momentum the hemp program may have had was stunted by uncertainty about whether there would be a second year. The department suspended the program last winter and didn’t resume taking applications until the Legislature in April appropriated $100,000 to keep it alive. The program’s revival may have come too late for this year, however.
Applications must be submitted at least 30 days before planting, and the department has no applications pending from somebody not already a license holder, Castro said.
Bonny Jo Peterson, Industrial Hemp Association of Washington lobbyist, said that the program’s uncertain status caused prospective growers and processors to put off plans until 2019. The old application form discouraged and baffled applicants last year, she said.
“It was stopping people from growing hemp and trying to get involved,” Peterson said.
“It (the new form) is much clearer and streamlined. It’s not overwhelming for people not used to filling out long applications,” she said. “It’s extremely simple compared to the last one.”
Separate applications for growers and processors have been combined into one form. The previous applications had a checklist with 11 boxes. The new checklist has five boxes.
The old form required applicants to document farming experience, submit a business plan and contracts, and, if applicable, a letter of support from landlords. The new form just asks for a brief description of the applicant’s plans.
Applicants still must submit GPS coordinates of fields, greenhouses and storage buildings. Applicants also must still disclose whether they have been convicted of a felony or drug-related misdemeanor within the past 10 years, but they no longer have to provide “dates and details” of convictions.
Some other things haven’t changed, such as fees. A grower or processor must submit a nonrefundable $450 application fee. The actual license to grow hemp costs $300 for one year, plus $200 for each field or greenhouse.
To prevent cross-pollination, hemp can’t be grown within four miles of any of the state’s more than 1,100 licensed marijuana farms.
The application form also reminds growers that hemp is a federally controlled substance and in bold letters warns that growing hemp outside the state program subjects the grower to prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration.