Massachusetts Issues Clarifications for the Hemp Industry Re: Essential Services

April 21st, 2020, Business & Corporate, CBD, Federal, Hemp, Public Policy, Regulatory, State

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources issued a bulletin as a response to an influx of inquiries as to whether or not hemp businesses are considered “essential” under the Governor’s emergency order. 

The bulletin explains that hemp cultivation is an essential service under the following descriptions in Massachusetts: 

  • Farmers, farm workers, support service workers, and their supplier employees to include those engaged in producing and harvesting field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; biodiesel and renewable diesel facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs.

Processing of raw hemp and manufacturing of products is considered essential under the following descriptions:

  • Food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees—to include those employed in food ingredient production and processing facilities; livestock, poultry, seafood slaughter facilities; pet and animal feed processing facilities; human food facilities producing by-products for animal food; beverage production facilities; and the production of food packaging.
  • Workers who support sawmills and the manufacture and distribution of fiber and forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood and fiber products.

At the national level, hemp businesses are eligible for relief under the CARES Act because hemp is no longer a controlled substance under federal law.  Marijuana businesses, on the other hand, remain ineligible for federal funds, even in states that have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use. 

Companies that manufacture or sell CBD products may be eligible to receive federal funds, but only if their products “are legal under state law and comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.” Because the FDA has yet to adopt a formal legal pathway for CBD products, the industry remains largely unregulated at the federal level. Perhaps more problematic is the fact that these businesses are subject to a complex and often conflicting set of regulations across the country depending on where the products are manufactured or sold. This situation makes it extremely difficult to provide evidence that a CBD business complies “with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.”