A. The Commissioner shall establish a program of licensure to allow a person to grow industrial hemp in the Commonwealth in a controlled fashion solely and exclusively as part of the industrial hemp research program. This form of licensure shall only be allowed subject to a grant of necessary permissions, waivers, or other form of valid legal status by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration or other appropriate federal agency pursuant to applicable federal laws relating to industrial hemp.
B. Any person seeking to grow industrial hemp as part of the industrial hemp research program shall apply to the Commissioner for a license on a form provided by the Commissioner. At a minimum, the application shall include:
1. The name and mailing address of the applicant;
2. The legal description and geographic data sufficient for locating the production fields to be used to grow industrial hemp. A license shall authorize industrial hemp propagation only on the land areas specified in the license;
3. A signed statement indicating whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony. A person with a prior felony drug conviction within 10 years of applying for a license under this section shall not be eligible for the license;
4. Written consent allowing the sheriff's office, police department, or Department of State Police, if a license is ultimately issued to the applicant, to enter the premises on which the industrial hemp is grown to conduct physical inspections of industrial hemp planted and grown by the applicant and to ensure compliance with the requirements of this chapter. No more than two physical inspections shall be conducted under this subdivision per year, unless a valid search warrant for an inspection has been issued by a court of competent jurisdiction. All testing for THC levels shall be performed as provided in subsection K;
5. Documentation of an agreement between a public institution of higher education and the applicant that states that the applicant, if licensed pursuant to this section, will be a participant in the industrial hemp research program managed by that public institution of higher education;
6. Any other information required by the Commissioner; and
7. The payment of a nonrefundable application fee, in an amount set by the Commissioner.
C. The Commissioner shall require a state and national fingerprint-based criminal history background check by the Department of State Police on any person applying for licensure. The Department of State Police may charge a fee, as established by the Department of State Police, to be paid by the applicant for the actual cost of processing the background check. A copy of the results of the background check shall be sent to the Commissioner.
D. All license applications shall be processed as follows:
1. Upon receipt of a license application, the Commissioner shall forward a copy of the application to the Department of State Police, which shall initiate its review thereof;
2. The Department of State Police shall, within 60 days, perform the required state and national criminal history background check of the applicant; approve the application, if it is determined that the requirements relating to prior criminal convictions have been met; and return all applications to the Commissioner together with its findings and a copy of the state and national criminal history background check; and
3. The Commissioner shall review all license applications returned from the Department of State Police. If the Commissioner determines that all requirements have been met and that a license should be granted to the applicant, taking into consideration any prior convictions of the applicant, the Commissioner shall approve the application for issuance of a license.
E. The Commissioner may approve licenses for only those selected growers whose demonstration plots will, in the discretion of the Commissioner, advance the goals of the industrial hemp research program to the furthest extent possible based on location, soil type, growing conditions, varieties of industrial hemp and their suitability for particular hemp products, and other relevant factors. The location and acreage of each demonstration plot to be grown by a license holder, as well as the total number of plots to be grown by a license holder, shall be determined at the discretion of the Commissioner.
F. An industrial hemp research program grower license shall not be subject to a minimum acreage.
G. Each license shall be valid for a period of one year from the date of issuance and may be renewed in successive years. Each annual renewal shall require the payment of a license renewal fee.
H. The Commissioner shall establish the fee amounts required for license applications and license renewals allowed under this section. All application and license renewal fees collected by the Commissioner shall be deposited in the State Treasury.
I. A copy or appropriate electronic record of each license issued by the Commissioner under this section shall be forwarded immediately to the chief law-enforcement officer of each county or city where the industrial hemp is licensed to be planted, grown, and harvested.
J. All records, data, and information filed in support of a license application shall be considered proprietary and excluded from the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.).
K. The Commissioner shall be responsible for monitoring the industrial hemp grown by any license holder and shall provide for random testing of the industrial hemp for compliance with THC levels and for other appropriate purposes established pursuant to § 3.2-4114 at the cost of the license holder.
2015, cc. 158, 180.