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Hemp production on Indian reservations is an option for Native American tribes in the United States, as long as tribal leadership creates an approved plan to regulate production under the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.

As the hemp market continues to boom across the country, many states are waiting on the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, to release new regulations and guidelines on hemp production under the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.

Once those new regulations and guidelines are adopted, the USDA will begin accepting state proposals for the regulation of hemp production in each state that applies. If approved, those states will begin issuing permits that will cover the cultivation, processing and manufacturing of hemp products.

An often-overlooked portion of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill is that American Indian tribes are given the same path to hemp regulation as the path given to the states. Tribes with approved plans can enact and enforce laws to regulate hemp production on Indian reservations and tribal lands.

These plans must include methods to track locations of crops and conduct testing to ensure compliance; a process for dealing with noncompliant crops; and methods of record-keeping and enforcement.

Additionally, states (and tribes) may not prohibit the interstate transportation of hemp that is lawfully produced pursuant to a license issued by a state or tribe. This means that hemp produced on tribal lands can be transported to market in other states even if the state in which the tribal land is situated has not legalized hemp production. 

While there have been some issues related to interstate transportation, these problems will wane as state law enforcement becomes more educated on federal hemp law and technological advancements allow for the roadside testing of products to ensure compliance.

Tribal leaders can look for public and private partnerships to develop research initiatives and pilot programs that can help those tribes diversify and grow their economies through hemp production. State agricultural universities could help tribes determine optimal growing conditions and methods, including which hemp varietals are best suited for the tribe’s land and the agronomic practices that result in the highest yield.

This is a promising economic opportunity that can generate new industries on tribal land and transform communities. Because of hemp’s versatility, it has the potential to disrupt the markets for many traditional commodities including cotton and other textiles, farm feed, construction materials, and dietary supplements. 

The market for CBD (cannabidiol), a product derived from hemp, is forecasted to reach $20 billion by 2024. Tribal leaders across the country are beginning to explore the possibility of allowing hemp production and engaging their members in this exploding industry.

Interested in exploring the legal options for hemp production on Indian reservations or in your state? Contact us for a consultation.

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