International Hemp: Guyana Takes the Stage

International hemp is big business. There are all kinds opportunities around import, export, production, processing, and sale of international hemp and hemp products. We handle these inquiries on a weekly basis, and have since 2018 when the federal government legalized the cultivation of hemp with the passage of the 2018 Agricultural Improvement Act (“2018 Farm Bill”).

The U.S. is falling behind on hemp

Although the 2018 Farm Bill has led to bigger and better international hemp opportunities with import and export, it’s done nothing to improve the legal status of cannabidiol (“CBD“) from a federal perspective. Here in the U.S., the manufacture and processing of hemp into CBD is a robust industry that makes its home in a legal penumbra because of the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA“). We’ve written about the topic many times–see here, here, and here. Even though various states permit CBD in food and beverages, the FDA isn’t a fan and takes the position that CBD in food and beverages violates the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Increasingly, the U.S. isn’t really a world-leader on things like the federal legalization of cannabis or progressive reform around international hemp and CBD on the federal level. Other countries are surpassing us (see here). One of those countries is now Guyana where the small South American nation recently legalized industrial hemp and “hemp related products”.

Guyana takes the stage

With the passage of the Industrial Hemp Act 2022, the Guyana Parliament established the Guyana Industrial Hemp Regulatory Authority, which will be the governing licensing body in the country for makes of hemp and hemp related products.

“Hemp” now means any part of the cannabis plant with not more than .3% THC (just like here in the U.S.), and hemp has been removed from Guyana’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (Control) Act. The Governing Board of the Authority is made up of, among others, Ministers from the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, and Home Affairs. The Board will be the arm of the Authority that oversees all licensing, enforcement, and hemp-related regulations.

Interestingly, the Board will be empowered to explore and implement things like “the number of licenses to be issued”, “collaborating with national, regional, and international organizations on matters related to industrial hemp,” import and export, including for scientific purposes, and “developing standards and prescribing codes of practice for licensees”.

Hemp licenses in Guyana

There are three kinds of licenses in Guyana for hemp–cultivation, manufacturing, and research. If you want a hemp license in Guyana, generally, then you must:

  1. be over the age of 18;
  2. not be filing for or in banktupcy; and
  3. be of “sound mind”.

All license applicants must also submit criminal background reports at the time of application. Further, for a cultivation license, you must be a resident of Guyana (as an individual), and if the applicant is a company, it must be registered to do business in Guyana.

Cultivation applicants must also “own, lease, or enter into a Sharecropper Agreement” for purposes of cultivation. And they must also have “proof of financial capability and an established seed or crop supply, whether individually or jointly with others” to meet the cultivation limits of a given license. Functionally, before planting, all hemp seeds or plants have to be tested to ensure that they do not contain more than .3% THC.

Manufacturing licenses will also be available, and they allow the applicant to undertake a variety of manufacturing activities including, but not limited to, the “processing of raw hemp materials into extracted or isolated products or the processing and manufacturing of industrial hemp related products including foods, textiles, furniture, medicines, and cosmetics . . .” Once issued, manufacturing licenses are valid for 15 years.

Licensees cannot hold more than one of each license type. All licenses outside of cultivation are valid for three years. And no acreage limit has been set yet for cultivation licenses. However, the Board may limit that in the future, and certain geographic areas across the country will be specifically designated for cultivation.

Regarding the advertising and labeling of hemp-related products, Guyana make no mention about being unable to make health-related claims (like here in the U.S.). The lone prohibition is that hemp products cannot be labeled or advertised as “psychotropic substances”.

Going forward

In the end, it’s great that Guyana is recognizing the legality of hemp cultivation and the processing and production of hemp products. The country is known for its natural resources, including its rainforests, sugarcane plantations, rice fields, and bauxite and gold reserves. I have no doubt that it will only be a matter of time before it adds industrial hemp to that list.

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Hemp/CBD, International