Georgia Governor Signs Bill to Establish Hemp Licensing Requirements

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed a significant legislative package on Tuesday, aimed at bolstering the state’s agricultural sector and enhancing security against foreign threats. This package is described by Kemp’s office as focusing on “supporting Georgia’s ever-growing agricultural industry and improving security against foreign adversaries.”

The package addresses various issues including the ownership of agricultural land by foreign agents, reducing high input costs for farmers and ranchers, protecting children from misleading marketing, and increasing penalties for livestock theft.

“Georgia’s farming families, as key contributors to our state’s leading industry, deserve unwavering support as they face unprecedented challenges such as harmful federal energy policies, foreign adversaries attempting to acquire farmland, and property theft,” Kemp stated. “We are addressing these challenges directly, and I want to thank our legislative partners for their work on these crucial issues.”

A key component of the package, SB 494, modifies the framework for hemp regulation in Georgia. It grants the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) enhanced oversight and enforcement capabilities, and introduces labeling, packaging, and marketing requirements to protect children from misleading and dangerous marketing.

Specifically, SB 494 “establishes licensing requirements for growing hemp as well as manufacturing and selling low-THC hemp products,” and “limits the possession and sale of hemp products to adults at least 21 years of age,” according to Capitol Beat News Service.

Hemp farming is described as a rapidly expanding industry in Georgia. “The vast majority of jobs and investments created by private-sector companies have been outside the metro-Atlanta counties, providing opportunities for Georgians across the state,” Kemp remarked during the signing ceremony, as reported by Capitol Beat News Service.

Georgia legalized hemp farming following the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized hemp-derived products. Although recreational cannabis remains illegal in Georgia, the state legalized medical cannabis in 2015 through Haleigh’s Hope Act, allowing eligible patients to access low-THC cannabis oil.

In 2019, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation authorizing the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee the licensing of limited, in-state cultivation, production, manufacturing, and sale of low-THC oil. This bill was also signed into law by Kemp.

Beyond agricultural concerns, the newly signed package also addresses healthcare professional burnout and the distribution of fentanyl-laced substances.

SB 465 targets individuals distributing fentanyl-laced medications by creating the offense of aggravated involuntary manslaughter for those whose actions result in a fentanyl overdose death. It also penalizes unregulated possession of pill presses and other drug-manufacturing equipment.

SB 420 prohibits foreign agents from owning or acquiring agricultural land or land near military installations. It targets nonresident aliens acting as agents of foreign adversaries, entities owned by certain foreign countries, or governments designated as foreign adversaries by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

SB 340 adds diesel exhaust fluid for agricultural uses to the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE), helping to reduce high input costs for farmers and ranchers.

HB 455 ensures that professional programs addressing healthcare professional burnout do not have to report individual cases to licensing boards unless the professionals are deemed incompetent or a danger to themselves or others.

Lastly, HB 1335 adjusts staffing requirements in personal care homes, assisted living communities, and memory care centers, ensuring at least two direct care staff are present at all times, with one staff member on each floor. If a medical alert system is in place and each resident has a wearable device connected to it, the staff person may move around the premises as necessary.

This comprehensive legislative package marks a significant step in supporting Georgia’s agricultural industry and addressing various security and public health concerns.


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