Can you grow hemp for cbd oil in nebraska

As Hemp Growing Expands, Producers Careful to Produce Legal Crop

It was a problem few thought through during the push to legalize hemp in Nebraska. The law used THC levels to define the difference between legal hemp and illegal cannabis. In line with USDA regulations, the state set allowable THC at a very, very low level to deter recreational use. As a result, it can be a challenge to produce a crop that meets stringent regulations.

A hemp plant grown as part of a 2019 pilot project on the Winnebago Reservation. (Photo courtesy Ho-Chunk Farms)

Originally, farmers promoted industrial hemp as a source of fiber in everything from rope to paper. The market for those goods hasn’t materialized. However, there’s been an explosion of interest in CBD products produced from hemp. The state’s hemp producers believe the expanding market makes surmounting the tricky process worth the effort.

Late in October 2019, a small work crew from the Winnebago tribe worked their way down the rows of stubby plants, pulling them from the ground and using a machete to remove the roots.

Someone looking on could have mistaken the harvest for stunted marijuana plants. The project fell comfortably within Nebraska and federal law. The tribe hopes this experimental hemp crop from Ho-Chunk Farms, on an acreage in northeast Nebraska, will become an important economic development opportunity.

At the time, Aaron LaPointe, manager of the farms, called it “a huge opportunity for the Winnebago Tribe,” adding, “if we can approach this the right way and be successful with it, we could help other tribes, too.”

Hemp and marijuana are in the Cannabaceae family, commonly called cannabis. By law, in most states, hemp contains less than .3% THC, the psychoactive substance that gives recreational and medical marijuana users a buzz or sense of euphoria.

Complying with that dictate becomes crucial as producers start to expand the state’s fledgling hemp production business.

Andrea Holmes, an organic chemist leading the Doane University Cannabis Studies program, said it’s a razor-thin difference in the chemistry of the two plants in the same family.

“It’s challenging to grow it in such a way that it forms very, very healthy flowers and that, most importantly, stays compliant” with the law.

“Hemp is kind of like a little baby,” Holmes said. “It doesn’t always do much you want it to do, so sometimes, depending on temperature and climate conditions, controlling the cannabinoid levels can be difficult.”

An employee at Sweetwater Hemp involved in processing the plants and extracting the CBD content. (Photo: Nebraska Public Media)

Sweetwater Hemp in Pleasanton, Nebraska, has been creating and marketing a line of CBD products, including skin care products and edibles, since 2019.

Owner Rory Cruise wants to use hemp that pushes the THC content right to the legal limit. He said it’s a tiny amount compared to recreational cannabis available in states where it’s legal, “especially when you’re talking about the marijuana plant, and you’re talking 17 to 31% THC. We’re down here trying to deal with 0.3% THC. So, there’s a huge difference between the two plants.”

In Nebraska, where marijuana remains illegal, the narrow threshold for THC in hemp can mean well-intended growers could produce a felony-level crop and, in the process, lose thousands of dollars.

“That window is super, super small, and then all of a sudden you’re over it,” Cruise said. “Now, all you get to do is destroy (the crop) all and try to start over.”

That’s what happened during Cruise’s first experimental grow in the greenhouses at Sweetwater. The crop came in hot, the jargon for THC levels that exceed the legal limits.

Hemp producers strive to reach THC levels in the sweet spot between beneficial to the end product without breaking the law.

Sweetwater currently purchases the plants from contracted growers who use genetics to engineer plants that repress their THC content.

“They keep being able to find that genetic (target) to create that cannabinoid and have that type of plant that creates that specific cannabinoid,” emphasizing the CBD over the THC.

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Where hemp is planted and cultivated may cause drastic swings in the THC level.

“The conditions in that greenhouse, (where) you’re always hot, you’re always warm, those plants have the best of both worlds,” he said. The plants “are not dealing with high extremes outside of wind and conditions and those kinds of things, and they just really push and thrive really fast.”

A Lincoln CBD product retailer advertises the availability of legal THC. (Photo: Bill Kelly, Nebraska Public Media)

The state’s department of agriculture demands independent testing to make sure the THC stays within legal limits.

A new lab-based in Lincoln, Kennebec Analytical Services, is one of the first laboratories in the state to get the needed certifications. Its CEO, bio-chemist Concetta DiRusso, said the work is necessary and challenging. She said the company “keeps at the forefront the recognition of “how important and serious this measurement is (because) it means the difference between harvesting and marketing a field of hemp or a greenhouse of hemp or destroying your crops.”

Once approved, the hemp gets turned into a product. Even if the plants stay within the legal THC mark, the processors must keep track of the same rules for the hemp flower.

Brett Mayo, the supervisor of the processing Sweetwater’s hemp, said the company “tests throughout the whole entire process.” Hence, if the THC levels get close “or even remotely close” to exceeding legal standards, “we have ways that we can dial it back, whether by dilution or just adding less concentration into the cook.”

Sweetwater uses a unique ice-water process to pull the CBDs out of the hemp. In its sales materials, the company boasts it takes “less than 12 hours to go from freshly harvested plant to active oil.”

Raw hemp flowers get hand stripped of the bud, washed, and filtered three times into something resembling wet brown sugar. It’s called Bubble Hash, and it’s rich in cannabinoids, both the CBDs and the fraction of a percentage of THC.

Mayo says, “the hard part about that is you want to be as close to that 0.3 as possible because THC has a bad reputation, but THC is going to help that product to be better.”

Proponents of CBD products promote what’s known as “the entourage effect,” purporting that even the small amounts of THC enhance the benefits of the cannabinoids.

There are still conflicting interpretations of the science, but the market for those products has seen massive growth.

Andrea Holmes (right) and Amanda McKinney, owners of A & A Apothecary, in the Lincoln story. (Photo: Nebraska Public Media)

Amanda McKinney operates A & A Apothecary, a CBD retail outlet in Lincoln. She and others in the industry support another method to keep hemp growers out of trouble with THC: the law could change at the state or federal level.

“We have to find some way to prevent entire crops from being destroyed if they’re just above the illegal limit, that 0.3% ,” said McKinney.

Some states have already increased the defining THC level in hemp from 0.3% to a full 5%. She believes “raising the threshold on that would help, especially Nebraska farmers, with growing industrial hemp so that they don’t have to be so diligent about catching that plant before it’s gone over that limit.”

The Winnebago Tribe will soon use what it learned after the pilot hemp project in 2019. Most of the necessary permits and certifications are in place to allow Ho-Chunk Farms to grow its own hemp.

As with Sweetwater, the Ho-Chunk crop will be planted indoors with the controlled lighting, temperature and irrigation of a greenhouse in an effort to keep the THC levels right where they need them.

The tribe has been producing pre-rolled smokable hemp made from plants imported from Oregon. The new grow operation will allow the tribe to promote and sell an entirely home-grown product.

CBD Oil in Nebraska: Is It Legal? [Complete 2022 Guide]

Keeping up with CBD and cannabis laws can be tricky. Trust us – it’s our job! The situation is ever-changing, and it can be complicated deciphering regulations in different states.

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The federal government has been reluctant to change its mind on marijuana, which has been illegal in the United States since 1937. CBD is a little more accepted. Either way, it’s up to individual states to have the final say. With different regulations in every state – and those regulations changing by the week – it’s hard to figure out what’s going on.

Nebraska is a state that has maintained a relatively strict stance against cannabis and CBD. Slowly, things are looking up for cannabis advocates in the Cornhusker State. Let’s find out more about the current situation with marijuana and CBD products in Nebraska.

Is CBD Oil Legal in Nebraska?

Broadly speaking the answer is yes if the CBD comes from hemp with a maximum THC content of 0.3%. However, answering this question is not straightforward.

Before the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act passed in 2019, Republic Attorney General Doug Peterson issued a memo saying CBD was a Schedule 1 substance unless it’s an FDA-approved drug. The memo also made an exception for products approved by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

No updates were made to this following the passing of the Hemp Farming Act. So, where does this leave CBD?

Nebraska CBD Laws

Nebraska Revised Statutes section 28-405 does not list CBD as a controlled substance. This implies that you are free to use CBD should you choose.

There is a suggestion that hopeful CBD sellers can register their product with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. Once the Department tests and approves the product, it is licensed for sale within the state, diminishing the risk of arrest.

Please note that you must also pay all relevant fees, including:

  • Cultivator fees
  • Cultivator site registration
  • Processor-handler site fees
  • Site modification fees

It’s better to pay the fees, as penalties for selling unlicensed CBD products in Nebraska can amount to $25,000 and a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Although these regulations are confusing, the crux is this: Hemp-derived CBD products seem okay as long as the relevant authorities approve them.

Many online reports imply that the Farm Bill made hemp and CBD legal. This is a bit of an oversimplification.

The Plot Thickens with the Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is a piece of federal legislation outlining agricultural practices in the USA. It’s updated every 5-6 years on average, with the most recent version being the 2018 Farm Bill.

Part of this bill was the Hemp Farming Act. The Act separates hemp and marijuana by definition, outlining that industrial hemp plants contain less than 0.3% THC. Under this definition, the Act allows states to decide on hemp cultivation and CBD production. This opens a pathway for states to think about the sale and use of CBD products.

Nebraska’s Hemp Farming Act means that licensed cultivators can now grow and process hemp in the state.

In Nebraska, it led to the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act, which became law on May 30, 2019. Before this act, only universities could grow hemp for research purposes. Now, cultivators can apply for a license to grow and process hemp in the state.

Hemp farming acts are usually an excellent opportunity for CBD sales. The Nebraska Hemp Farming Act does not mention CBD specifically at any point, though, causing quite a bit of confusion.

What CBD Products Can I Use in Nebraska?

Up to now, the only CBD product you can use with absolute certainty in Nebraska is Epidiolex. The FDA has approved this synthetic cannabinoid. However, you can only obtain it from a healthcare provider if you have a severe form of intractable epilepsy.

With the above information in mind, it seems that Nebraska isn’t being too strict on hemp-derived CBD right now. Most penalties are leveled at retailers, as the regulations for selling CBD are even more blurry. As a consumer, you likely don’t have to worry much.

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Unlike some other states, Nebraska doesn’t appear to have a ban on particular consumption methods. However, a proposed MMJ bill would have banned smokable forms, so it’s probably best to avoid raw hemp flower. Vape shops are also taking a hit from law enforcement right now, so maybe stay away from vaping.

Tinctures, gummies, capsules, and topicals do not appear to be causing a huge problem.

Where to Buy CBD in Nebraska?

Despite potentially facing legal issues, plenty of physical stores in Nebraska are willing to sell CBD products. Here are five with solid customer reviews.

However, it’s probably best to source CBD products from out of the state. It’s tricky to find licensed products in Nebraska due to the complex nature of the rules. There are plenty of high-quality CBD retailers online that offer products following the Farm Bill’s rules.

Whenever you buy CBD, it’s vital to stick to a hemp-derived product with less than 0.3% THC. You can verify this information by checking lab reports. Never buy from a company without visible lab reports. Here are five online CBD brands that tick all the right boxes:

  • Just CBD
  • PureKana
  • Joy Organics
  • CBDmd
  • Premium Jane

Is Marijuana Legal in Nebraska?

No. In 1927, the state of Nebraska banned cannabis. Not only did this ban prohibit marijuana, but it also led to the rapid decline of hemp production. Throughout America, the prohibition of marijuana led to a gray area for hemp cultivation, and it all but died out.

Ever since the 1920s, Nebraska has maintained its anti-cannabis stance. To this day, possession is illegal, but decriminalization means that penalties are not as harsh as they once were. In 1969, Nebraska eased the restrictions so that first-time possession is not a serious offense.

In 2012, the neighboring state of Colorado legalized cannabis recreationally. Nebraska law enforcement subsequently noted an 11% increase in marijuana arrests. In a strange turn of events, Nebraska and Oklahoma attempted to sue Colorado in the Supreme Court. The Court intervened and denied the request to proceed with the lawsuit.

These days, there is a growing push for the state to legalize medical marijuana. However, at the time of writing, medical marijuana use in Nebraska remains prohibited. The Cannabis Compassion and Care Act was proposed in 2015, which would have permitted marijuana concentrates for therapeutic purposes. Suggested medical conditions included HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, and cancer.

In 2016, a Senate filibuster blocked the bill. As a result, Nebraska is still suffering from a lack of MMJ. The fight continues, however. There are concerted efforts to legalize the substance, although cannabis proponents continue to face stiff opposition.

Explaining the relevant laws…

Cannabis Penalties in Nebraska

Nebraska has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Therefore, you are guilty of a civil infraction if caught with less than an ounce. The penalty is a fine of $300. If found with a small amount of weed for a second time, you are charged with a misdemeanor and could spend five days in prison. A third offense means a possible seven-day jail term.

It is a misdemeanor to carry over an ounce with a potential 3-month jail stint as the penalty. The possession of over a pound of weed is a felony. This is a serious charge, and you could spend five years in prison if found guilty.

Things get even worse if you’re caught selling marijuana in Nebraska. It is a felony to sell any amount. There is a mandatory minimum prison sentence of a year attached to this crime, but you could face up to 20 years of imprisonment!

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil in Nebraska

Nebraska does not have some of the easiest regulations to understand. The fact that marijuana is illegal is black-and-white, but CBD is occupying a gray area right now. Many Nebraskans enjoy CBD products without a worry, but you need to be careful that your CBD comes from a trusted source.

As for MMJ, the tide might be turning. Campaigners are pushing hard for medical marijuana in Nebraska. Perhaps we will see big changes sometime soon.