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Farm Bill Pushback Over Hemp Testing and THC Rules

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Written by Peter McCusker

The push back on the recently-released U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hemp industry regulations is underway a number of fronts.

One of the main concerns is on the strict rules governing the levels of THC in industrial hemp plants. The new guidelines, which follow the introduction of the Farm Bill last year, are intended to establish common cultivation and processing regimes across all 52 states.

While they have been broadly welcomed there has been a push back from many quarters on the specifics with hundreds of responses submitted to the USDA since their release at the end of October.


Bottlenecks And Delays

Two Democrat Senators  Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are requesting a series of changes, report the Marijuana Moment website. These include a waivering of the 15-day testing timeline which they say should be increased to 28 days, they call for an easing on the stipulation that only Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registered laboratory’s can undertake testing, as this will lead to ‘bottlenecks’ and ‘delays’.

There is also concern over the stipulation on the maximum permitted level of THC, which the Farm Bill says should be no more than 0.3%. In their submission the senators say: “While the Farm Bill defines hemp as cannabis containing no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis, the USDA gave slight margin of error and considers any plants with more than 0.5 percent THC to be in violation of the regulations.” 

Farmers have called that limitation arbitrary and the senators said it would be more reasonable to set the ‘negligence threshold at 1 percent’’, if there must be a THC restriction at all’. The Hemp Industry Daily website also carries an in-depth report on this issue saying the the USDA predicts that about 20% of hemp samples collected in 2020 will exceed the 0.3% THC limit’ and will need to be destroyed. 

‘Hot Crop’ Warning

It goes on to say that the USDA rules lays out no plan to appeal testing results, and as a result those with ‘hot crops may fall under suspected of the DEA’. It quotes the views of Denver attorney Frank Robison who contends that for the micro-levels of THC involved with hemp production, the USDA shouldn’t have to involve drug law enforcement.

“The USDA should have the capacity to manage 1,000 parts-per-million THC,” Robison said. The DEA should be focusing on drug criminals, not farmers, he said. “The folks that know how to work with crops are the people that should be managing the data and working with these farmers, not a law enforcement agency charged with pursuing crystal meth and fentanyl criminals,”  he added.

He highlights how legitimate American farmers may have been sold “bogus seeds” or seeds that tested below 0.2% THC in Europe but went ‘hot when grown in a warmer U.S. climate’.

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About the author

Peter McCusker

Peter McCusker is an experienced news and business editor, who believes it’s time to fully embrace the multiple, proven, medical benefits of the cannabis plant.

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