The process of starting hemp farms in Michigan is heavily regulated by the Michigan Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of giving grower licenses. The license for hemp farms needs to be renewed annually through an application to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). 

The state’s industrial Hemp Plan was first set into motion with the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed universities, colleges, and state departments with a focus on agriculture to grow market hemp as part of a pilot program. The 2018 Farm Bill established, with the MDARD, the state’s first industrial hemp ag program with farmers, processors, colleges, and universities. In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave Michigan state’s industrial hemp plan federal approval. For hemp farms in Michigan, this means new regulatory requirements to consider for cultivating industrial hemp.

First Pilot program 2019 for hemp farms in Michigan

You can’t grow hemp legally unless you join the pilot program. Launched in April 2019 by the MDARD for farmers, the industrial hemp pilot program was dedicated to the creation of an industrial hemp farming plan in MI. The program enables applicants to grow, handle, process, and research industrial hemp legally. 

The USDA released their interim regulations in 2019, providing guidance for Michigan to develop a state-focused plan. 

The success of the pilot program was to be determined by the development of a regulatory framework for hemp farms in Michigan. The federal approval means that Michigan’s plan complies with the 2018 Farm Bill requirements and the USDA’s Interim Final Rules, namely: 

  • Crops need to be tested for THC prior to harvest
  • Visible signage to be placed at the boundaries for the growing area
  • A processor license is indispensable for the handle, process, brokering, or market of hemp
  • Application need to identify all growing locations
  • Only registered growers can grow hemp in Michigan

For hemp farms in Michigan, the federal approval of the Michigan state’s industrial hemp plan brings new requirements to the application process. 


The legal requirements for hemp farms in Michigan as per Michigan Public Act 641

For individuals who are already familiar with the pilot program, it is important to mention that a lot of existing regulatory frameworks have not been affected by the federal USDA’s approval. 

Michigan’s Public Act 641 establishes the requirements for the registration and licensing of hemp farms in Michigan. If you wish to grow hemp, you will need to obtain a hemp license in Michigan, which has to be renewed every year. Hemp farms in Michigan have to register for a grower registration and further relevant licenses if they wish to process and/or handle hemp. Both grower and processor-handler license applications come at a cost and need to be completed 60 days before November 30 of each year. Hemp farms are expected to pay $100 for a grower license, and $1,350 for a processor-handler one. 

They also need to complete the application for the hemp ag pilot program. Participation in the hemp ag pilot program requires licensees to provide a successful background check. This background check requires hemp farm owners to be free of drug-related felony charged in the 10 years prior to the submission of the application. 

Crops need to be submitted to testing for compliance with the THC rules of hemp. Hemp has to test below 0.3% THC to be compliant. If the crop fails to meet compliance criteria, hemp farms need to proceed to the full destruction of the crops. As per Public Act 641, hemp farms can complete two additional tests if the first one failed. 

The signage at the boundaries for the growing area must state the grower’s name and registration number and the following statement: “hemp register with Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development”. 


Key changes for hemp farms in Michigan since USDA’s approval

The USDA’s approval clarifies the known regulatory framework further for compliance with federal rules on hemp. 

Growers’ applications will now need to include a complete federal criminal history report. Previously, the 10-year background check didn’t include drug convictions outside of Michigan. Now growers have to use an FBI background check tool. 

Hemp farms in Michigan need to include the legal description of the property intended for hemp farming. This comes in addition to the existing requirements: address, GPS coordinates, acreage, and map of the areas intended for growth. The hemp acreage is to be submitted directly to the USDA’s farm service agency. 

Growers can’t collect samples for submission to THC analysis anymore. Sample collection is directly available from the MDA. If the crop is non-compliant, growers have to follow specific requirements and methods for destruction. 

If you are unsure about how to navigate the federal requirements for hemp farms in Michigan, don’t hesitate to reach out to our teams of experts.