Hemp belongs to the Cannabis sativa species of herbaceous plants. Hemp and marijuana are botanically related because they are both from the Cannabis sativa family. Hemp, however, does not contain high amounts of the psychoactive compound THC. Cannabis plants with a THC content above 0.3% are classified as marijuana in the U.S. Most hemp plants have a THC concentration of 0.3% or less. Marijuana is high in THC but contains small amounts of cannabidiol, or CBD.
Hemp is sometimes called industrial hemp because of its versatility in manufacturing industrial products, such as textiles and biofuels. It can be cultivated for fiber or the extraction of seed or CBD oil.
Common hemp parts and their derivatives include the following:
Hemp is legal in West Virginia. Congress passed the 2014 Farm Bill to empower states and universities to carry out hemp research. Under the 2014 Farm Bill, states and universities were prohibited from engaging in the commercial exploitation of hemp and moving the crop across state lines. States were authorized to establish hemp pilot programs.
Prior to the federal legalization of industrial hemp, West Virginia had enacted its own laws recognizing hemp as an agricultural crop. The West Virginia Industrial Hemp Act, SB 447, was passed in 2002. It allowed the cultivation of hemp plants with a THC content of not more than 1%. In 2014, West Virginia passed another hemp law, HB 3011, allowing residents to engage in hemp cultivation, processing, and sale regardless of whether they met federal requirements.
The enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp at the federal level. The bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Interstate movement of hemp crops and derivatives is also permitted under the 2018 Farm Bill Act. All hemp-derived products must have no more than 0.3% THC. Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, West Virginia enacted the West Virginia Industrial Hemp Development Act, SB 475. SB 475 gave the Commissioner of Agriculture the authority to develop a certified hemp seed program for West Virginia.
The 2018 Farm Bill authorized states to regulate the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp in accordance with rules laid down by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). West Virginia submitted its Hemp Plan to the USDA in 2021. West Virginia residents can only cultivate hemp if they have obtained licenses from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA). Hemp products can be shipped across West Virginia state lines.
Under West Virginia law, certain hemp-derived derivatives, isomers, and cannabinoids with a THC content of 0.3% or less are legal. Hemp derivatives or extracts can be infused into cosmetics and edibles and sold in the state. All hemp-derived products sold in West Virginia must be registered with the WVDA.
Despite the legality of smokable hemp flowers, it is not advisable for drivers or truckers in West Virginia to smoke hemp while driving. Public smoking of hemp is also not advised because of the resemblance between hemp and marijuana. Smokable hemp products must be consumed indoors.
The Farm Bills and previous West Virginia state laws legalized hemp-derived THC products, such as Delta-8 THC. However, during the 2023 legislative session, senators approved SB 220 and SB 546, which proposed to ban the sale and consumption of Delta-8 THC products in West Virginia. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed SB 546 into law, placing Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC products back on the list of Schedule 1 substances. The ban became effective on June 8, 2023.
There are no provisions in West Virginia law allowing municipalities to restrict the cultivation or processing of industrial hemp. However, municipalities can pass zoning ordinances regulating the location of hemp cultivation or processing sites.
Individuals or entities intending to grow or process hemp in West Virginia must submit a Hemp Cultivation and Processing License Application to the WVDA. Applicants must include the following information and fee with completed application forms:
Business entities submitting hemp license applications must include the following documents:
Application forms must be legibly filled legibly or typed and signed by the applicant. Applications by individuals convicted of drug offenses in the 10-year period prior to their applications will be rejected. Property owners who are also convicted drug felons will be barred from participating in hemp growing or processing. Completed forms should be mailed to the WVDA at:
West Virginia Department of Agriculture
1900 Kanawha Blvd. East
Charleston, WV 25305-0170
The WVDA notifies applicants by email when applications are received and under review. Successful applicants will receive both an email copy and a hard copy of their licenses. The WVDA will also include an invoice containing the full amount payable as the license fee.
The cost of a hemp cultivation license in West Virginia is $500. An additional fee of $5 is charged for each outdoor acre of land on which hemp is cultivated. A fee of $3 per 1,000 sq ft is charged for indoor cultivation areas. A West Virginia hemp processor license also costs $500. All licenses are renewable upon expiration at a $50 fee.
In order to legally grow hemp in West Virginia, a person or business must be licensed by the WVDA. Hemp growers in the state are obligated to provide their local Farm Service Agency with information about the exact number of acres on which they intend to grow hemp plants. West Virginia farmers who import hemp seeds from outside the U.S. must obtain a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin. Only hemp seeds with a THC content of 0.3% or less can be cultivated in West Virginia. Hemp farmers in the state are required to inform the WVDA whether they intend to cultivate their crops using seeds or clones.
Hemp seeds are usually inserted in the soil up to a depth of 1 inch. Agronomists advise that hemp seeds be planted when the soil is free of frost. Loamy soils with plenty of organic matter are best suited for cultivating hemp. Hemp plants do not thrive in clay soil or poorly drained soil. Industrial hemp can be cultivated for the extraction of CBD or for the processing of fiber and seed. Hemp crops grown for CBD or for seed are usually spaced widely, unlike hemp grown for fiber, which can be planted in clusters.
Although hemp and marijuana are both Cannabis sativa plants, they are cultivated differently. Hemp is grown for a wide range of medical and industrial uses, while marijuana is grown for the THC in its flowers. It is possible to grow hemp from either seeds or clones, but marijuana is mainly cultivated using clones. Hemp plants are usually planted in outdoor sites, while marijuana plants can be planted in greenhouses in order to maximize THC production.
West Virginia hemp farmers are advised to use fertilizers containing nitrogen, phosphate, and potash on their crops. Only pesticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can be applied to hemp crops in West Virginia. The following pesticides are among those approved for use on hemp plants in West Virginia:
West Virginia residents are permitted to buy smokable hemp flowers from licensed dispensaries, pharmacies, and online vendors. There are no limits on the amount of hemp or hemp-derived products that can be bought in the state. There are also no possession limits. Businesses in West Virginia can ship hemp flowers into the state.
Hemp is the name of a plant of the Cannabis sativa species. THC is a cannabinoid present in minute amounts in hemp, often not more than 0.3%. Marijuana contains large amounts of THC. Hemp-derived Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC products are no longer permitted for sale and consumption in West Virginia.
Hemp plants contain a cannabinoid known as CBD. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound recognized for its medicinal benefits. It is present in the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the hemp plant. Hemp farmers who cultivate the plant for the processing of CBD specifically select female seeds, which will yield plants high in CBD. Hemp-based CBD products with no more than 0.3% THC are legal in West Virginia.
Industrial hemp is known to have an increasing range of uses across many areas. Such applications in West Virginia include the following: