Industrial Hemp

When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, the federal government reclassified industrial hemp making it legal to grow with certain restrictions.  In Pennsylvania, small businesses can grow and cultivate industrial hemp only with a valid permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

What is Considered "Hemp"? 

Hemp is a variety of cannabis that contains a concentration of less than 0.3% THC content by dry weight. The product can be used commercially as a source of fiber, food, and other purposes such as cannabidiol (CBD) extracts. Often confused as one of the same, it is probably important to note that hemp and marijuana are different varities of the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa.  For more information, please check out this FAQ.

Hemp and Air Emission Issues

Hemp plants naturally emit a type of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) called terpenes which is a large and diverse class of organic compounds that often project a strong odor. Small businesses should employ best managment practices when working with hemp to help control air quality issues such as VOC emissions and malodors. Neighbor and employee complaints can often quickly get the local & state regulatory agencies knocking on your door.

Most commonly, growers and processors of hemp in the state of Pennsyvlania may have to tend with odor control issues.  The installation of control technologies such as a carbon filtration system can help control odors when done and used properly.  Ensure the following to get the best use out of your system:

  • Choose a filter with a high removal efficiency.
  • Inspect and conduct regular maintenance on your air filtration and HVAC systems.
  • Ensure your industrial hemp small business operations are conducted within a sealed infrastructure and check regularly for air leaks.
  • Do not exceed the maximum rated cubic-feet-per-minute (cfm) for air circulation through the filter.
  • Inform and train staff to follow best management practices and operating procedures.

Some industrial hemp operations may process the hemp plant to extract essential oils that contain CBD to make a variety of other commercial products.  These processes often use common solvents such as propane, butane, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol to enhance oil recovery.  These solvents may evaporate during the extraction process which may result in potential emissions of VOCs and Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS). Pennsylvania DEP does maintain certain thresholds for VOCs and HAPs which may trigger the need to obtain a valid air quality operating permit.

Other Best Available Control Technologies (BACT) may exist for commercial operations involved in cannabis and hemp production. A list of these BACTs can be found in a May 2019 report published on Best Available Control Technologies and Regulatory Oversight of Environmental Considerations.

Small Business Assistance

It is possible that equipment used onsite at an industrial hemp operation in Pennsylvania may be subject to state air permitting requirements.  If your small business requires assistance to determine environmental compliance in Pennsylvania, you can contact EMAP by emailing questions@askemap.org or by calling (877) ASK-EMAP.