The U.S. imports about $800 million worth of hemp to be used for its fiber, seed, and oil. Other countries are already using industrial hemp to make a variety of products, including insulation, energy-efficient construction materials, durable fabrics, plaster, plastic, and flooring. Among the biggest foreign growers are Canada and China. With California eager to be a player in the versatile hemp game, we are ramping up to make our entrance. The sunshine state has put pen to paper drafting regulations and a registration process for the seemingly inescapable hemp market.
California voters approved the growing of industrial hemp as part of 2016's monumental Prop 64 (making recreational cannabis legal). Rolling out an infrastructure and regulations has taken a bit of time. Up to now, only established research institutions, as defined by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), were allowed to grow industrial hemp. However, recently, the Industrial Hemp Advisory Board, a division within the CDFA, the same agency licensing cannabis cultivation, gave the go-ahead for hemp cultivars to register to grow hemp - complete with applications and all.
Now, any person who cultivates industrial hemp for commercial purposes or for seed production and development has to register to do so. However, instead of applying for a city/county license and then a state license, as done for cannabis cultivation, hemp cultivars only register with the county agricultural commissioner in the county that they intend to cultivate. In some cases, we are also seeing counties tacking on additional requirements to the registration like conditional use permits.
From the looks of it, hemp cultivars are not applying for a license with an extensive application and operating procedures like cannabis cultivators. Rather, hemp cultivars are simply registering their activity by providing basic information about the cultivation site, a boundary map, and certain information about seed cultivars. Registrations are submitted with and Industrial Hemp Grower Annual Registration Fee of $900 - a deal compared to the seemingly skyrocketing cannabis annual fees.
Because the state regulations left it up to agricultural commissioners for California's 58 counties to process hemp registration, hemp cultivars should also be aware of the county's regulations on hemp. So far, only 22 counties — including Ventura, San Diego, and Imperial — are accepting hemp registration forms, while counties like Mendocino, Humboldt, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo have placed restrictions and moratoriums on industrial hemp cultivation.
LA County Hemp Licensing
At the time of writing, the County of Los Angeles is seemingly behind the curve and no information is available through the County Agricultural Commissioner or the Department of Cannabis Regulation's websites as it relates to hemp licensing. While the procedure for hemp licensing in the County of Los Angeles is still unclear, you can apply for a BTRC within the City of Los Angeles (see below).
LA City BTRC
The City of Los Angeles (not County) requires all individuals and entities conducting business activities in the municipality to apply for and obtain a Business Tax Registration Certificate (BTRC) through the City’s Office of Finance for the sale of industrial hemp. This isn't a permit or license for industrial hemp and it does not necessarily allow for the cultivation of hemp. Instead, it serves to allow businesses across all industries to pay their sales taxes. To apply, individuals and entities must provide their SSN or EIN, respectively, as well as a business activity description, legal business name and DBA if applicable, business start date, physical and mailing addresses, and contact information. Upon completion of the application, you will receive a temporary BTRC or Registration Number and receive the permanent BTRC by mail within 4 to 6 weeks.