USDA Hemp Regulations – Public Comments

The USDA is seeking comments on their proposed interim rules that, if accepted, will be effective for two years and will be replaced by final rules at a later date. The current plan has some pretty major flaws and would make virtually all hemp grown in the US illegal. The comment period ends on January 29, 2020. So far there are less than 2000 comments – those of us who use any CBD or hemp products need to make our voices heard so we can be assured access to safe and affordable CBD/Hemp products.

Please take the time to send your comments to the USDA! Please feel free to copy and paste any or all of this article to use in your comment.

Proposed Rules

  • 0.3% Total THC (decarbed)
  • Testing has to be done within 15 days of harvest
  • Testing must be done at DEA registered labs
  • Testing is to be done post decarboxylation
  • 3 strike rule for any farm failing with over 0.5% Total THC resulting in a 5 year ban from growing hemp.

Rules we’d like to see adopted:

  • 1% or less Total THC
  • Testing to be completed within 30 days of harvest
  • Testing done at any accredited lab
  • No strikes.

Where did 0.3% Delta 9 THC originate?

In the 70’s a group of Canadian researchers used the 0.3% Delta 9 THC content in order to distinguish between recreational marijuana cultivars and hemp cultivars. Their definition was arbitrarily chosen and included the stalks and leaves of the plant, not just the flower. Current standards are using this arbitrarily chosen percentage and making it even more of a stringent limit by applying it not just to young leaves of relatively mature plants, but exclusively to the flower of fully mature plants (where most of the cannabinoids are concentrated).

“It will be noted that we arbitrarily adopt a concentration of 0.3% Delta9-THC (dry weight basis) in young, vigorous leaves of relatively mature plants as a guide to discriminating two classes of plants. This is based on standard-grown material in Ottawa in gardens, greenhouses and growth chambers, and of course on our analytical techniques. Dr. C. E. Turner, who has conducted extensive chemical analysis of Cannabis at the University of Mississippi, has agreed (pers. com.) that this is a reasonable figure to discriminate two classes of plants. “

Small & Cronquist, 1976.

Delta 9 THC vs THCa

Delta 9 THC is the psychoactive substance in cannabis. THCa is non-psychoactive, but converts to Delta 9 THC when exposed to high temperatures. This heating process is called decarboxylation. It’s a fancy word that just means that the THC has been activated.

The 2018 Farm Bill specifically states that Delta 9 THC levels need to remain below 0.3% – the USDA is overreaching by adding THCa to the current law. While 0.3% Delta 9 THC is still arbitrarily low, it is reasonable to expect currently available hemp strains to be able to be grown within this standard. The USDA’s proposed rules go beyond what is already legal and unnecessarily and arbitrarily makes the burden of legality much more stringent. Setting a more reasonably attainable limit of 1% or less total THC limit would still keep a clear distinction between hemp and marijuana while allowing hemp farmers a reasonable margin of error to operate in. Hemp is a plant and there are no known guidelines farmers can follow to limit THC/THCa production during the plant’s life cycle.

  • Switzerland <1%
  • Thailand <3%
  • The UN defines hemp as a CBD:THC ration of >1

15 Day Test/Harvest Window

15 days is way to short of a time period for farmers and growers to know whether or not their crop is compliant. This tiny window of time (even without consideration to any bottlenecks at the few DEA registered testing labs) would not allow farmers the time to get results before they need to invest considerable time, energy and money in harvesting and drying. Those investments in time, labor and money would be extremely risky to undertake when there’s a very good chance their crop could be over the 0.3% total THC limit.

There are currently only 37 DEA registered labs in the entire country… This creates some potentially enormous bottlenecks in the testing of hemp flower during the outdoor harvest season.

In order to remain under the 0.3% total THC rule hemp plants will have to be harvested before they reach full maturity. The CBD percentages won’t be able to be maximized because of a too stringent and arbitrary limit on THC. Farmers and growers will be forced to work and live in constant fear of losing their investment due to a few tenths or hundredths of a percentage point of THC.

3 Strikes for failing above 0.5% Total THC

This rule is ridiculous. Hemp farmers are growing a plant. There are no known ways of controlling THC content outside of starting with genetics (seeds) that have proven to grow within legal limits in the past. That’s all well and good, but if something goes wrong during the grow, the plant (for whatever reason) could produce more THC than it ‘normally’ does. Under the proposed rule, if a grower fails a total THC test by having plants test over 0.5% THC 3 times they will lose their growers license and be banned from growing hemp for 5 years. There is absolutely no need for this rule. If plants test hot they will have to be destroyed… there’s no need to punish farmers with the threat of losing their entire business. The already painful task of having to destroy a ‘hot’ crop is deterrent enough.