Price Hikes for Hemp Licenses Could be Coming in Washington State 

Written by Orion Inskip, Attorney at Gleam Law with focus on CBD Law.

Hemp, once a staple of American industry, is slowly taking hold as a cash crop. The aftermath of 1998’s legalization of the importation of hemp has shown that there is a robust market interest in hemp goods in the United States. This year, Congress stands poised to completely legalize hemp through The Hemp Farming Act, citing the successes with hemp pilot programs as well as increased interest in the farming community. But in Washington state, the price to do hemp business could potentially increase by 2400%.

Since the federal authorization of hemp pilot programs, Washington State has seen slow growth for hemp farming. This year is likely to see only 100 acres of hemp grown in the state, entirely by the Colville Confederated Tribes. Washington only has one other licensee, in Graham, and they didn’t plant this year.

Potential Price Increases for Washington Hemp Licenses

Currently, licenses to grow and process hemp in Washington are $300. However, Washington’s Department of Agriculture is considering a rate hike that would raise the cost of these licenses dramatically. Under the proposed increase, a license to grow and process hemp would cost $14,500 while a license to distribute seeds would rise to $7,500.

The Department of Agriculture hopes that the increased costs of licensing will offset the costs of regulating the hemp seed supply, harvesting, and processing, all of which it currently handles.  Logically, the 2,400% increase in licensing is likely to drive away farmers, especially those operating on a small scale. However, an increase in interested farmers would likely keep the state from having to adopt such an extreme increase in licensing fees.

What’s Next for the Washington Hemp Industry

As we move towards the end of the federal prohibition on the production of hemp, we may see larger regulatory shifts. Currently, Washington does not allow the manufacture of hemp oil, typically marketed as a health or dietary supplement. Washington also forbids the growth of hemp within four miles of any marijuana farms, fearing cross-pollination contamination. If the onerous federal regulations are removed, perhaps Washington will see an increased interest in industrial hemp more akin to the robust growth seen in some other states, such as Oregon.

Hector Castro, spokesman for Washington’s Agriculture department, said the agency understands that the fee increase might discourage potential Washington hemp farmers. “That really is unfortunate. It’s not what we’re trying do,” he said. “We’re focused on raising enough money, otherwise we can’t operate the program.” (via Capital Press).