Despite the widely held misconception that hemp isn’t a crop worth growing, Iowa is home to several hemp processing plants. Some of the processing plants produce only CBD oil, while some of the plants also produce CBD wax and CBD shatter. These products are offered for sale online at places like your local smoke shop, or locally at festivals and events.

Hemp is a cash crop that was once the most promising source of income in the Midwest. It was also a cornerstone of the family farm, since it could be harvested every year, and the seeds were nutritious and versatile. However, due to our country’s war on drugs, hemp has been a target of prohibition for over 60 years.

It is the law in Iowa that all hemp must be produced within the state. Meaning if you live in Iowa, you must grow it in Iowa. This was true before the Great Recession, and it’s true still. Sen. Charles Schneider, a Republican from Humboldt, introduced a bill to the 2018 Iowa State Legislature that would have allowed hemp to be grown legally in Iowa. If passed, it would have amended the definition of hemp to include any part of the cannabis plant with less than 0.3 percent THC, the chemical that gets you high.



With the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, hemp was quickly and severely controlled and limited as a near relative to marijuana. It was part of Nixon’s “War on Drugs,” and it classified cannabinoids like marijuana and hemp as “Schedule 1” drugs, which are the most addictive and have the least evidence of health benefits. That’s right up there with heroin and above cocaine and methamphetamine.

Although hemp and marijuana are both cannabis plants, they are categorized differently depending on one key chemical: THC. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that produces a high when consumed. Hemp is non-intoxicating since it contains less than 0.3 percent of this chemical. Marijuana, on the other hand, may contain up to 30% THC. 

A plant that George Washington once grew at Mount Vernon (for its fibers, not for making jazz cigarettes) has become notorious in the public eye. The government concealed that aspect of its past, the deadly criminal implications of such a drug covering up its previous economic and industrial viability, just as it had done in World War II with “Hemp for Victory” videos to urge farmers to support the textile industry. 

At least until today. In the last ten years, hemp and marijuana regulations have begun to resemble those in pre-Nixon America. In 2014 and 2018, Presidents Obama and Trump both signed Farm Bills that legalized and decriminalized hemp growing. Hemp-based nutritional and commercial goods have reintroduced hemp to the financial limelight. It’s more important than ever to observe how Driftless residents are embracing hemp.

For the last two seasons, hemp licenses have been available in Iowa, making the hemp market fresh and unknown terrain for many farmers. Jacob Johnson, a Lansing landowner, has been navigating those waters on his own farm. He leases out some of his property to maize and bean growers, but he retains enough for hemp cultivation.

He applied to be a part of the first round of hemp lawfully produced in Iowa since 1937 when the state started accepting applications for the 2020 growing season. He began with 500 plants and, like the rest of Iowa’s hemp growers, learned some important lessons. According to Iowa’s existing regulations, all hemp must test below 0.3 percent THC or be destroyed. When hemp plants are deprived of sunshine or nutrients, THC levels may skyrocket. For this reason, almost a third of Iowa’s hemp harvest in 2020 will have to be burnt, and Jacob will not be spared. 

“I had to burn a few of mine. Fortunately, just one of the five strands tested positive,” Johnson added. 

Farmers may only engage in “industrial” hemp cultivation in Iowa due to THC restrictions. Paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, building, health food, and fuel are just a few of the applications for industrial hemp. Corey Coleman, CEO of Cedar Falls-based Hemp’d In LLC, discussed why industrial hemp is so popular in the Midwest.

“Farmers in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have the bigger, open acres, fields, and equipment that the Midwest farmer is better suited for,” said Coleman, whose business offers hemp seed and industry assistance to farmers.

These two people are part of a wider network of hemp growers, advocates, and activists in the Driftless Region and its environs. Jacob is one of the Driftless’ 14 licensed hemp farmers, and Hemp’d In is one of Iowa’s seven hemp seed wholesalers. Despite the fact that they play quite different roles in the hemp sector, they both agree on one of the most pressing issues confronting the hemp community: processing.

The issue of processing

Medical cannabidiols (mCBD) may be sold to licensed people and locations, and non-dietary goods can be marketed lawfully, but there is no place in Iowa for farmers to convert their plant into a product. Johnson is fortunate in that he has connections outside of the state.

Johnson stated, “I’ve just got a year of experience, but the most important thing is being able to absorb it.” “I have a buddy in California who works in the legal marijuana business, and he has pals who own processing facilities, so I spent the most of last year doing that.” Johnson’s contacts aren’t available to every hemp grower. Many farmers would lose money if they shipped their produce, according to Coleman, and the state of Iowa hasn’t done anything to help.

“On the industrial side, we don’t have the infrastructure,” Coleman added. “In order to produce these various kinds of goods, we need processing facilities that can decorrugate hemp. Iowa has been sluggish on everything, so they haven’t done their farmers any favors in terms of ensuring a viable hemp industry.”

As Coleman points out, this opens the door for a slew of snake oil salespeople to pounce on these inexperienced hemp growers. 

“Whenever a new market emerges, there are a lot of unscrupulous actors that come up and prey on those who are trusting and eager to try something new,” Coleman said. “Lack of regulation has undoubtedly played a role in some of it. As a result, it has left a sour taste in the mouths of many farmers.”

The difficulties haven’t deterred Johnson. He expected problems when the hemp sector began to take shape, but he is optimistic that Iowa will regain its footing. “Being the first year, I believe that will be the case, but it will also likely frighten people away from becoming involved at first,” Johnson said. “However, I believe that with time and legality, it will become simpler for us to perform our job, and that is what truly needs to happen.”

When it comes to the future of hemp, all eyes will be on legislation. Farmers will need all the assistance they can get to get the business back to where it once was—in the eyes of the government and the people—as more states consider not just hemp, but recreational marijuana and its applications.

“It’s a new business, and I have a lot of optimism and confidence in it,” Coleman said, “but there’s been a lot of misinformation for a long time that we have to reverse.” “We need to educate them about hemp and give them the truth about it—not it’s the ‘devil’s lettuce.’”

The state of hemp in Iowa is always changing. At times, it seems to be doing just fine. But at other times, it seems like the state is moving in the wrong direction. Here are some agronomic considerations for hemp farmers.. Read more about iowa hemp license application and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you legally grow hemp in Iowa?

Yes, it is legal to grow hemp in the United States.

How much do you get per acre of hemp?

The average yield per acre of hemp is about 1.4 tons.

How do you get a hemp license in Iowa?

In Iowa, you need to have a hemp license in order to grow or sell hemp.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • iowa hemp license
  • hemp industry in iowa
  • wild hemp in iowa
  • how to grow hemp in iowa
  • is hemp legal in iowa 2021
You May Also Like

Panama Set to Have Legal Medical Cannabis, But Hemp Bill Stalls

Panama is set to become the first country in Latin America to…

Latin America Can Export More Than Raw Material

With the legalization of cannabis in Canada, Latin America is poised to…

New Mexico Might Not Have Enough Weed To Open Recreational Sales

If you’re a regular watcher of our Canibus blog, you know how…

Spain Moves Toward Medical Cannabis Regulation

The Spanish government is reportedly planning to legalize medical cannabis. The draft…