Thursday, January 21, 2021

USDA eases hemp rules on 'hot' crops, sampling and testing

The Agriculture Department released a final rule last Friday to address some of the widespread complaints from growers and state officials about federal hemp regulation, Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico's Weekly Agriculture. Here's what's in the new rule, which is to take effect March 22:
  1. It extends the window for farmers to have their hemp crops sampled by regulators, and loosens some of the sampling requirements.
  2. Farmers have more options for dealing with "hot" crops, i.e., those that have more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Under the new rule, producers can use non-compliant hemp as "green manure" or other legal purposes instead of destroying it.
  3. The rule gives farmers more wiggle room before they face legal consequences for growing hemp with too much THC. Farmers whose hemp has a certain level of THC can be considered "negligent" and face legal repercussions. The old threshold for negligence was 0.5%. Farmers, especially those new to the business, have long worried about accidentally tripping that threshold. The new rule increases the threshold to 1%, which USDA says will "increase flexibility to farmers as they learn more about how to grow compliant hemp and as the availability of stable hemp genetics improves."
  4. USDA kept one of the most controversial provisions. Hemp still must be tested in labs licensed by the Drug Enforcement Agency, but USDA is delaying enforcement of that requirement until 2023 because there's currently a shortage of DEA-registered labs.

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