USDA issues advice for transporting hemp

January 22, 2021

Chuck Robinson


A recently published final rule on hemp production offered some advice for motor carriers and drivers transporting hemp across state lines.

A final rule titled “Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program” published on Jan. 19 in the Federal Register by the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most of the 96-page document relates to production and testing practices.

The ruling states that nothing in the 2018 Farm Bill prohibits the interstate commerce of hemp and in fact no state or Indian tribe may prohibit the legal transportation of it, per the farm bill that expires Jan. 1, 2022, through its territory.

The farm bill does not authorize the USDA to regulate interstate transportation of hemp, according to the final rule.

Though USDA does not have jurisdiction over common carriers or other types of transporters to add transportation paperwork requirements to the final rule, the agency offered some advice.

USDA recommends that “transporters carry a copy of the producer’s license or authorization, as well as any other information the governing state or Indian tribe recommends or requires that will validate that the transporter is transporting legally-grown hemp.”

Hemp producers and carriers providing transportation services should keep documentation on the cargo with them, including copies of lab testing reports demonstrating that the product is not marijuana. They also should carry with them a copy of a grower’s license, a bill of lading and/or invoice, and the contact information of the buyer and seller.

The agency said it is developing a database that will share information about hemp production – including contact information for the producer, a legal description of the land where it is produced, and status of the producer’s license – with law enforcement.

Hemp and marijuana

The 2018 farm bill differentiates between hemp and marijuana, which come from the same species of plant, and paved the way for the hemp industry to grow. Hemp may have no more than 0.03 percent of THC, the compound that elicits a euphoric high in people who ingest it. Hemp is used in a wide variety of CBD products.

In early 2019, a truck driver hauling hemp across Idaho was arrested and charged with marijuana trafficking. In another incident, two truck drivers were arrested for hauling what they understood to be hemp. All three reached plea agreements with prosecutors in the fall of 2019.

In December, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), which would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act. The Senate, however, did not consider it. That means for it to become law, the legislation would have to re-introduced in both chambers. The MORE Act included language that would still have allowed USDA to require commercial motor vehicle operators to be tested for marijuana use. LL

Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson formerly was senior copy editor for a weekly trade publication serving the fresh produce industry. He has served trade publications, horticultural journals and community newspapers for 25 years.