USDA Releases Draft Hemp Regulations for Public Comment

This week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released draft rules for hemp regulation. There will be a 60-day public comment period before the rules are finalized.

“At USDA, we are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers, and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets,” said Secretary Perdue in a press release. “We have had teams operating with all-hands-on-deck to develop a regulatory framework that meets Congressional intent while seeking to provide a fair, consistent, and science-based process for states, tribes, and individual producers who want to participate in this program.”

The USDA drafted the regulations as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill that descheduled and legalized hemp. Under the draft rules, the THC content must be under 0.3%, and any hemp found to exceed that amount would be destroyed. Other key elements of the new regulations include:

  • Industrial hemp must be tested in a Drug Enforcement Administration-registered laboratory.
  • Hemp flower must be tested by a USDA-approved sampling agent 15 days before the anticipated harvest.
  • Guidelines for licensing, locations where hemp can be grown, and testing procedures.
  • A 10-year ban on participation in the hemp industry by “key participants” with a direct financial interest in the business who have felony drug convictions.

States and American Indian tribes will have some say in setting their own hemp regulations (as long as they don’t violate USDA guidelines), and the USDA must evaluate these plans within 60 days of submission. In states where hemp production is illegal, such as South Dakota, farmers will not be able to cultivate hemp unless state law changes.

Not everyone is happy with the proposed rules. Hemp farmers say that the USDA regulations will make producing high-quality CBD impossible.

“We’re going to be forced, if we want to continue farming CBD, to be harvesting in week four to week six of flower time, where we’re typically not starting our harvest until seven or eight,” Phoenix-based hemp farmer Adam Harris told KTVL News10.

Hemp farmers say that the window between testing, receiving results, and harvesting is too narrow and will hurt the quality of their harvest.

“Most scientific research to date is indicating that the most medicinal benefits are with that full-spectrum CBD. These new USDA regulations make it so we can’t even take in the harvested material to take in those full-spectrum extracts the way that we have been,” said Mitra Sticklen of Om Farms LLC, a hemp company based in Jacksonville.

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