State agriculture regulators will vote next week on a major hemp policy change. Specifically, members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) will vote on whether to support an amendment to the “federal definition of hemp to increase the total THC concentration to 1% or less.”
The 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp in the United States, currently defines hemp as cannabis with .3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). When NASDA members meet next week for their Winter Policy Conference, they will discuss, more specifically, how “increasing the total THC concentration to 1% would allow for use of available seed varieties, provide greater assurance to the producers that they have a viable crop and still places limits on THC concentration,” according to the policy book released ahead of the meeting.
Additionally, Bill Richmond, the head of the US Department of Agriculture’s Domestic Hemp Production Program, is scheduled to speak, following NASDA Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt. (Read Cannabis Wire’s Q&A with Hurlburt.)
In January, the USDA released its final rule for the regulation of hemp. After the interim final rule was released in 2019, more than 6,000 comments poured in during the open public comment period. NASDA is among the individuals and entities that have called for fixes to the rule, and, among their suggestions was that the “negligence threshold” for THC be raised to 1%.
NASDA’s proposed policy amendment on hemp that is coming up for a vote next week calls the .3% limit “an arbitrary standard that was never meant to be used as a legal measure for THC concentration in hemp, and is not consistent with the level of concern placed on the potential for diversion of crops with a THC concentration of 1% into an illicit market.” It notes that “up to 40%” of lab test results show that hemp samples exceed .3% THC.
The policy amendment continues by highlighting the hemp programs launched in other countries like Mexico and Switzerland that set their THC limits at 1%. As Cannabis Wire has previously reported, the global definition of hemp varies widely, from .2% in Spain and Croatia, for example, to .5% in Paraguay.
If the federal definition of hemp were to change, this would have implications for hemp-derived CBD products, for which the US Food and Drug Administration has yet to finalize its rule making.
During last year’s NASDA Winter Policy Conference, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn spoke about the wide availability of cannabidiol (CBD) products, often derived from hemp plants.
“We’re not going to be able to say ‘you can’t use these products,’” Hahn said. “Even if we did, it’s a fool’s game to even try to approach that. But what do we need to do? We need to fill the information gaps. We need to understand what it helps with, because we have some evidence on the drug side that it may be beneficial.”