Industrial Hemp Program

Industrial Hemp Leaves

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) was signed into law by the President on December 20, 2018 and became effective January 1, 2019.  This removed hemp from Schedule 1 of the federal regulated Controlled Substance Act.

On January 1, 2019, Governor approved Senate Bill 1409 became effective which authorized the growing of industrial hemp in California and established California law and development of  regulation governing industrial hemp cultivation.

In an effort to allow time for a more comprehensive development of necessary cultivation laws, regulations, and land use ordinances in Merced County, the Merced County Board of Supervisors enacted an urgency moratorium on the cultivation of Industrial Hemp on May 7, 2019 and extended it on June 18, 2019.

On August 27, 2019, The Merced County Board of Supervisors passed Ordinance No. 1972 establishing regulation for the cultivation of industrial hemp in Merced County. This ordinance became effective 30 days after its passage.

The United States Department of Agriculture Marketing Service noticed the Interim Final Rule on October 31, 2019 in the Federal Register which governs the cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States. These rules set federal requirements for state enforcement plans. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is currently working towards aligning the California hemp cultivation enforcement plan with federal requirements. It is anticipated that as CDFA modifies its industrial hemp cultivation enforcement plan to align with federal requirements, counties may also need to align any local ordinances not meeting federal and state requirements.

Industrial hemp is a crop that is limited to types of the plant Cannabis sativa L. having no more than three-tenths of 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops, whether growing or not; the seeds of the plant; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin produced therefrom. Cultivation of Industrial Hemp is allowed in Merced County as long as such cultivation complies with all applicable laws, regulations, and county ordinance. The Agricultural Commissioner’s Office works in cooperation with the Sheriff’s Office and the Community and Economic Development Department in the enforcement of laws, regulations, and county ordinances affecting the cultivation of industrial hemp. The Agricultural Commissioner’s Office conducts site inspections, testing, and dispositions of compliant/non-compliant cultivations.

In Merced County, prospective hemp cultivators must first obtain a Merced County Hemp license prior to submitting and obtaining a required California Department of Food and Agriculture hemp cultivation registration.

Merced County Industrial Hemp Licensing and Registration Process

Merced County Industrial Hemp Registration Process

  1. Applicant submits completed Industrial Hemp License application to Agricultural Commissioner (AC) for review.  This includes a map of the proposed cultivation site with setbacks (if applicable), APN number, and a deed holder permission if the site is not owned by the cultivator.
  2. After initial review, AC forwards application for review by Community and Economic Development Department (CED) for compliance with Merced County Industrial Hemp Code (9.31).
  3. CED reviews application, denies or approves application, and forwards reviewed license to AC. 
  4. If denied, AC informs applicant of reason for denial and/or possible corrective actions.  If approved, applicant will sign a compliance agreement and CDFA registration application.
  5. AC reviews the CDFA registration application to ensure all requirements are met.
  6. After review, applicant submits a surety bond and $900.00 CDFA registration fee.  AC submits application to CDFA.  Applicant is considered licensed for 1 year.