USDA Open to Changes to Hemp Rules, but not THC Limits
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last week that they would not be making changes to the allowable THC limit for legal hemp. While the 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress legalized hemp, it came with the requirement that THC content must be under 0.3%, and any hemp found to exceed that amount must be destroyed. The USDA says that it’s up to Congress to make changes.
“The Farm Bill set forth these requirements,” Bruce Summers, acting administrator of USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service, said on a call with reporters. “Any changes to these requirements require legislative action.”
“To go from 0.3 to one percent would have to be a statutory change,” he said. “In other words, Congress would have to take action. We couldn’t do that by regulation.”
While the THC limit will remain the same for hemp, the USDA is open to other changes to their rules. The USDA says it will use the 2020 growing season as a chance to “test drive the interim rule to help guide any adjustments that are made in the final rule.” After the 2020 harvest, the USDA will open a second public comment period before final regulations are set. The interim final rule will expire Nov. 1, 2021, after which the USDA will then deliver the final regulations.
One potential change could involve the disposal practices for “hot hemp.” Hemp that tests above regulated THC levels cannot be sold and must be destroyed. According to Summers, “there’s probably some flexibility there, and we hope to get some additional guidance on that out shortly.”
“Hot hemp” is ineligible for federal crop insurance programs, including the two new federal hemp insurance programs the USDA announced earlier this month.
Summers also said that there could be changes to the requirement that testing facilities must be certified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Hemp farmers have been concerned that there are too few certified labs, which will cause backlogs and delays in hemp testing.
“It’s something we’ve heard loud and clear. It’s something we’re dealing with and something we’re hoping to have more information out about shortly,” Summers said about the lab shortages.
The Farm Bill gives states the right to submit their own proposed hemp regulations. The Colorado Senate has urged the USDA to loosen some of its hemp regulations.
“As presented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture…members, there will not be a hemp industry in Colorado,” said Colorado Sen. Don Coram (R-Montrose). “The rules and regulations are so onerous that we as farmers cannot comply, and the state cannot afford to comply.”
The state Senate adopted a resolution in January, pledging their support for regulatory revisions.
“Colorado has been a national leader in developing public policies that support hemp production, protect farmers and consumers, and treat hemp as an important agricultural product and not a controlled substance,” the resolution reads. “The State’s written comments on the interim rule present thoughtful and compelling recommendations on how the USDA’s rules could be improved to allow for greater flexibility and equity in state regulation of hemp production in a manner that protects farmers and consumers and promotes growth of the industry.”