Industrial Hemp from the Department of Agriculture in Kentucky
Industrial Hemp from the Department of Agriculture in Kentucky

What to Know Before You Grow Hemp in the County of SLO

Author: Marc Lea
Date: 3/15/2019 11:12:08 AM

With the federal government’s passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in December 2018, industrial hemp was officially taken off the federal Controlled Substances Act list. But what does that mean for potential growers in San Luis Obispo County?


  1. Any hemp plant containing more than 0.3% THC would be considered cannabis by State and Federal regulations. The regulatory changes only apply to “industrial hemp”. Essentially, any “hemp” plant containing more than 0.3% THC would be considered cannabis under both Federal and State law, and growers in SLO County would be subject to rules detailed by the County’s cannabis ordinance.

    In the County’s cannabis ordinance enacted in late 2017, industrial hemp was specifically excluded from the restrictions and requirements for cannabis, and instead was identified as a “crop production and grazing” use. There is no local land-use permit required for cultivating industrial hemp at this time.

    However, industrial hemp growers must still follow all local land-use requirements for the “crop production and grazing” category, which may include grading requirements, irrigation offsets for those cultivating over the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, etc. Please contact the Planning Department for further information on local land use requirements which may apply in your situation. In addition, the State laws and regulations required for industrial hemp cultivation, as described below, must still be met.
  2. There are some Federal restrictions on industrial hemp cultivation. Under the federal rules, hemp cultivation still has some restrictions. The 2018 Farm Bill allows industrial hemp to be cultivated if growers meet State requirements and the State’s program is in accordance with Federal law. In other words, hemp cultivation in California would be legal under Federal law, only if growers meet the State laws and regulations governing industrial hemp cultivation and those State laws and regulations comply with Federal law.
  3. State regulations establishing industrial hemp registration processes and fees are not in effect, yet. The County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office (AKA Department of Agriculture/Weights and Measures) will process industrial hemp registrations for commercial cultivation in SLO County for the State, but that registration is not yet available. State regulations establishing the process and fee for registration have been proposed but aren’t yet effective. They are expected to take effect in late spring 2019. Even after registering, industrial hemp growers must follow specific State regulations, which will include sampling and testing requirements within 30 days of harvest.
  4. Agriculture research institutions are currently exempt from registration under State law and may grow industrial hemp without prior registration, with one exception. As of January 2019, established agriculture research institutions cultivating industrial hemp under the agriculture research exemption must provide GPS coordinates of their cultivation locations to the County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office prior to planting. Please contact our office to submit this data. Note: Operating under the State’s established agricultural research institution exemption does not necessarily ensure compliance with Federal law because of the requirements set forth under the 2018 Federal Farm Bill.

The County Department of Agriculture/Weights and Measures will provide updates on industrial hemp regulations as more information becomes available. But until the State regulations take effect, no commercial industrial hemp registrations can be processed.

Please contact us if you have any questions.