Oversight of Industrial Hemp

Issued Date
December 09, 2019
Agriculture and Markets, Department of


To determine whether the Department of Agriculture and Markets (Department) is adequately administering the Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program (Program) in accordance with federal and State requirements. The audit covered the period April 1, 2016 through May 31, 2019.

About the Program

Industrial hemp is an expanding commodity in the United States, as both the stalk and seed can be used to produce a wide range of products, from clothing to building materials and biodegradable plastics. Federal and State law define industrial hemp as any part of the Cannabis sativa L. plant with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of no more than 0.3 percent. The federal Agricultural Act of 2014, among other actions, authorized institutions of higher education and state departments of agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes. In New York State, Article 29 of the Agriculture and Markets Law launched the Program, which is administered by the Department. In December 2018, the Program had 156 participants (growers); by July 2019, that number increased by 169 percent to 419 growers. The Department processes and approves Program applications, and then is responsible for conducting pre-growing inspections and for sampling plants to test THC levels before harvested industrial hemp enters the supply chain.

Key Findings

The Department’s Program has rapidly expanded opportunities for industrial hemp production in the State. However, the Department does not always follow established practices when reviewing applications, conducting inspections, and sampling plants.

  • The Department inspected only 57 percent of growers in the Program and tested plant THC levels for only 58 percent of the growers during 2018. According to the Department, staffing shortages and competing priorities affected its ability to inspect and sample. Incomplete records and unreliable data systems further hinder its ability to effectively monitor Program requirements.
  • The Department generally accepts most grower applications, even if they are incomplete or contain risk factors that officials state they screen for during their review.

Key Recommendations

  • Take steps to improve the usability, accuracy, and completeness of Program data, including implementing procedures for input, quality assurance, and use of information.
  • Develop, implement, and follow clear and consistent procedures for processing Program applications, conducting inspections, and sampling plants. 

Brian Reilly

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Brian Reilly
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236