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Industrial Hemp Pilot Program in North Carolina

Frequently Asked Questions

General Program Questions

What is industrial hemp?

Legally, industrial hemp is Cannabis sativa L. with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol content of 0.3% or less. As a plant it is a small seeded, dicot, dioecious, photoperiodic plant. That means it is a broadleaf plant with both male and female plants that generally flowers based on a day length trigger. However, some strains can flower based on a certain amount of days and they are known as auto-flowering strains.

How is industrial hemp cultivated?

Industrial hemp is generally grown for; seed, fiber, or floral materials. Each is produced is in a slightly different way. For seed production, plants would generally be seeded at a high plant population similar to a small grain crop. Reported seeding rates are 25 to 40 pounds of seed per acre planted with a grain drill. For fiber, high seeding rates are generally recommended. The reason for high seeding rates and plant population is to limit lateral branching and facilitate harvest. Production of floral materials varies widely from greenhouse production to wider row spacings, which would resemble tobacco or horticultural crop production. Floral buds are harvested, so production systems that promote lateral branching and more numerous flowers per plant would be desirable.

Harvesting methods vary. Industrial hemp for seed can be harvested by a combine, but care must be taken to avoid wrapping of plant stems on combine parts as well as shattering of seed to the ground. Grain (seed) is typically harvested at high moisture levels (~15%) to prevent wrapping and shattering, and then the grain should be dried quickly to 7-10% moisture to prevent spoilage. For fiber, the entire plant is cut close to the ground and a retting process must occur. Retting allows the fiber to be separated from the inner core, or hurd, of the stalk. For floral material, the floral buds are harvested.

What is hemp used for?

Hemp fibers have been used to manufacture hundreds of products that include fiber for injected/molded composite materials, twine, paper, construction materials, carpeting, clothing, and animal bedding. Seeds, on the other hand, have been used in making industrial oils, cosmetics and other personal care products, and medicines. Hemp seed or oil can be found in cooking oil, salad dressings, pasta, and snack products. This crop has also generated great interest among pharmaceutical and medical researchers because of the cannabinoids found in the hair-like structures, called trichomes, found on the floral materials.

How can I participate in the program?

Under state and federal laws, individuals must be issued a license to participate in the industrial hemp pilot program. Growers in North Carolina who wish to cultivate industrial hemp shall apply for a license to the Industrial Hemp Commission, which must be approved by commission members. The Industrial Hemp Commission is responsible for developing rules and applications for participating in the program. As adopted in February of 2017, Temporary Rules spell out the requirements of the industrial hemp research pilot program. An application to become a licensee is available online as well as application instructions and an application section in our FAQ page (see below)

How do I obtain a copy of the list of hemp processors or hemp license holders?

The industrial hemp processor list can be found at and you can make a public records request for the hemp license holders list by sending an email to


Application & Licenses

What kind of requirements do I need to meet in order to get approved for a license?

Most of the application will require little work on your part as an applicant. Many questions only require information that you already know or can easily access like various contact information and GPS coordinates.

There are two sections that will require outside documentation. First, you will need to know who you will be acquiring seed, clones, or transplants from. If you have no idea where to start please navigate to the Planting Sources link under the Forms & Resources section. The provider that you work with will need to provide you with their hemp license information and certificates of analysis for the strains/varieties that you intend to grow and that information will have to be included with your application.

The second portion that will require outside documentation is section 13 of the application, the
Bona Fide Farmer Certification section. This will require you to provide 1 of 4 specific sets of tax documents (given in the rules and on the application) to prove that you generated gross income last year from the sale of an agricultural commodity. There are no exceptions to this requirement and the taxes must be from the previous year NOT the last time that you filed farm income. As an example, if it is 2020 then you need to provide your 2019 tax information.

Are there any restrictions on the number of acres or greenhouse sq. ft. that I can have?

Assuming you have a license to cultivate industrial hemp you can have as much or as little acreage and greenhouse sq. ft. that you want. Keep in mind that the more acreage and greenhouse sq. ft. that you have the more it will cost to obtain and maintain your license.

Are there any restrictions on where I can legally cultivate hemp?

So long as you can acquire a license to cultivate or are in possession of a valid license, there are few legal restrictions on where you must cultivate. Keep in mind that other laws, such as restrictive covenants and zoning, still apply and may impact your ability to grow in certain areas.

The NCDA does not recommend that anyone cultivate at their home, especially in urban or suburban areas. While there may be no legal restrictions to prevent you from doing so, altercations with neighbors and law enforcement will likely increase if your crop has high visibility.

How long does it take to get approved for a hemp license?

The answer to this question is variable. If you submit an application that is completely correct with an Industrial Hemp Commission meeting scheduled for a week later then the whole process could take as little as a few days. However, applications requiring corrections could take days, weeks, or longer to correct and be approved by the commission. As a general rule, it will take approximately 2-3 weeks to be reviewed, correct your application, and then be approved at an Industrial hemp commission meeting. This timeline can shrink or expand depending on the volume of applications and the frequency of Industrial Hemp Commission meetings.

Does my 3 year license have to be renewed?

Yes. If you acquire a 3 year license you only pay for the first year with your initial invoice. Each year after you must pay an annual renewal fee to keep your license valid for the full 3 year period.  Failure to pay your annual renewal can cause your license to expire.

How much does an industrial hemp license cost?

For most, a hemp license costs between $500 and $600 dollars but this will vary depending on how many acres and greenhouse sq. ft. you intend to be licensed for. You can visit the rules page to read about the fee structure.

Can I change the information on my license?

Yes. We have an amendment form in place so that you can change just about any part of your license. The form to do that can be found under the Forms & Documents page of our website. Based on the rules of the program you have 30 days to make changes to your license.

Can I be listed on someone else’s license or transfer my license to someone else?

No. Hemp license are not transferable to another entity and do not transfer with land. There is no way for you to add an individual to your license or for you to be listed on another’s license.

Hemp Processors

How do I register as a hemp processor?

You can navigate to the Industrial Hemp Processor page to find the registration form. Fill out this form and submit it back to us according to the instructions at the top of the page.

What is a hemp processor?

A hemp processor can be any number of things including but not limited to: a facility performing extractions and generating crude or distillates from hemp biomass, drying/curing/trimming services, facilities that package or repackage hemp/hemp products, facilities that take crude oil or distillate and formulate products ready for retail, facilities that package or pre-roll smokable hemp products, etc. If you aren’t sure if you should register as a hemp processor you can contact us at

Can I modify my processor registration information?

Yes. You can email us at with any changes that you need to make.

Selling Hemp & Hemp Products

Do I have to register or get a license to sell hemp or hemp products?

No. There are currently no laws requiring a special license or registration to sell hemp or hemp products (often CBD) in the State of North Carolina. Keep in mind that only an individual with a cultivator’s license can be in possession of or sell viable seed or living hemp plants. You will need to establish your business with the state, if you haven’t, for tax and other legal purposes.

Are edible hemp/CBD products allowed to be made and sold?

The Federal Food and Drug Administration has stated that CBD cannot be put into foods for human or animal consumption because it is a registered drug. CBD is the active ingredient in a drug called “Epidiolex” and much like you can’t put aspirin in food you cannot put CBD into food. In addition to the restrictions on what you can put CBD into, you cannot make medical claims on CBD products or sell CBD as a nutritional supplement because of its status as a registered drug.

Is smokable hemp legal in the State of North Carolina?

At this time, smokable hemp is a legal product in the State of North Carolina. Legislation could be introduced to ban smokable hemp in the General Assembly but until it is passed into law smokable hemp remains legal.

Delta-8 THC

Is Delta-8 THC tested for in hemp in North Carolina?

The North Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Program does not regulate or screen for Delta-8 THC when sampling hemp for compliance. Instead, the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Program samples and tests for the total Delta-9 THC levels, including any potential conversion of THCA into THC. This approach is in-line with USDA’s January 19, 2021 Final Rule, titled “Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program.” USDA explained that there is no need to screen for Delta-8 THC because the concentration of Delta-8 THC in hemp is basically undetectable and contributes nothing significant to the total THC content.

Are Delta-8 THC products legal in North Carolina?

The threshold factor is whether the Delta-8 THC is derived from hemp or marijuana. If the Delta-8 THC is derived from marijuana, then the product is illegal as a controlled substance under both North Carolina and federal law.

Whether Delta-8 THC derived from hemp is legal or not depends on who you ask. Currently, DEA takes the position that synthetically derived THC is illegal as a controlled substance. Since Delta-8 THC appears at negligible and nondetectable concentrations in hemp, Delta-8 THC is normally derived from chemical conversion from CBD into Delta-8 THC. Therefore, it appears from DEA’s August 21, 2020 Interim Final Rule, titled “Implementation of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” that it will treat Delta-8 THC derived from chemical conversion or other synthetic methods as illegal.

How can I keep informed of when the Industrial Hemp Commission will meet next? What if I miss a meeting? Can I get the information I missed from a meeting?

There is a Meeting Update page that lists the next announced Industrial Hemp Commission meeting. Additionally, you can find meeting agendas and approved minutes from previous meetings. You can also sign up for the mailing list on the Industrial Hemp Home page to get meeting information emailed as it becomes available.



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