The 2018 Farm Bill gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to mandate that hemp crops containing more than 0.3% of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) must be destroyed. This limit is well-known, but what is not always acknowledged is how that limit was derived. In one word according to the industry … arbitrarily.
So it’s key to know that farmers and processors are pushing back at the moment, seeking to change the legal definition to allow for 1% THC. Many cultivars grown for legal CBD production have an excess of 0.3% when tested, causing for a significant number of crops to be destroyed. Both the Farm Bureau and the National Farmers Union have gone on record favoring this change.
Confusingly, methodologies on testing for THC vary between the USDA standards and various state standards. The original 0.3% limit was based on testing for the delta-9 THC concentration, yet interim federal standards have replaced this with 0.3% of the total THC (including the THCA acidic cannabinoid levels.)
In addition, the USDA’s proposed rule change that hemp farmers must harvest within 15 days of testing their crops is being loudly challenged by state agriculture departments and industry associations. While many farmers believe the harvest time is simply too short, most all agree that the rules proposed will lead to higher THC levels being shown, and more crops destroyed, than a 30-day window would allow.
So the upshot for the 2020 season is that some states will follow the federal guidelines and some states will follow their own rules previously established in their pilot programs. The states sticking with their own regulations include:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
Amid these federal and state conflicts, there is a bright spot. In July, the USDA announced new rules allowing for legal imports of hemp seeds — removing them from Drug Enforcement Administration control. That’s at least one area where everyone can agree that progress is being made.