Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Hemp still faces regulatory hurdles if Farm Bill legalizes it

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, looks at hemp
straw with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles,
right. (Associated Press photo by Bruce Schreiner)
Though Congress will likely legalize its cultivation nationwide in the new Farm Bill, it "will remain a tightly regulated crop facing plenty of regulatory and legal challenges," Sophie Quinton reports for Stateline. "As the more than 30 states that operate hemp pilot programs have discovered, it’s not easy to oversee a plant that’s used to make everything from car parts to hand cream," and which, except for one thing, "is identical to marijuana, which the federal government still classifies as a dangerous drug."

Tim Gordon, president of the Colorado Hemp Industries Association, told Quinton that it could take one or two years for the federal government to create regulations for hemp. For instance, the government must create a national standard for how to test hemp for the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol. Under federal law, hemp cannot have more than a 0.3 percent concentration of THC. "State agriculture commissioners are now banding together to come up with a common standard. A working group convened by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture is expected to start meeting next month," Quinton reports.

The question of THC content can be tricky. Some farmers have an incentive to grow hemp that has as much THC as legally allowed, since increasing THC increases the level of cannabidiol, a compound used for its medicinal properties. CBD is part of the reason for increasing pressure to legalize hemp; sales are expected to top $646 million within the next four years, according to Hemp Business Journal.

But CBD is at the center of a regulatory tangle: "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has maintained that CBD oil cannot be marketed as a dietary supplement, and has been going after companies for making outlandish health claims," Quinton reports. "Laws and regulations that define the hemp extract, who can use it and who can sell it, differ from state to state." The Farm Bill would classify CBD as an agricultural product, so states may need to tweak their laws to conform.

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