Legislation

Colorado Dept. of Agriculture Proposes Changes to USDA Hemp Plan

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Written by Colby McCoy

A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposal for federal hemp regulations has met opposition from multiple corners of Colorado’s bustling hemp industry. On January 29, 2020, a press release was issued by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA). In the release, it is argued that the USDA’s proposed regulations will stifle growth and endanger smaller hemp producers, who will struggle to meet the stringent demands of the USDA’s proposal.

The CDA has criticized and offered alternatives on multiple regulations, including a tight 15-day window to sample 100% of hemp lots prior to harvesting. According to the CDA, only 23 percent of total lots were sampled in 2019 within a 30-day window. Requiring 100 percent of lots to be sampled in such a short period of time will severely tax the resources of the state’s field inspection workforce, as well as hemp producers and testing labs. CDA recommends a “…30-day period between sampling and harvest.”

Another contested point is the requirement that all THC testing be conducted by DEA-registered laboratories. As of today, Colorado has 13 testing labs that have been certified by the Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR), not the DEA. Earning DEA certification has been an issue in the past, since the DEA often refuses to certify facilities that handle high THC derivatives of cannabis, a reality for states with medicinal/recreational cannabis. Per the CDA, it is recommended to utilize state certified labs to conduct testing for hemp crops.

The issue of ‘hot’ crops, i.e. hemp crops with THC levels higher than 0.3%, has been widely reported in state hemp industries across the United States, leading to the destruction of millions of dollars in crops. In the opinion of the USDA, all hemp crops over 0.3% THC, after accounting for margins of uncertainty, should be destroyed. Following the USDA’s logic, the CDA claims that in 2019 alone the state would have destroyed over 4,400 acres of crops “…at a value in excess of $154 million.” The CDA proposes the 0.3% limit be raised to 1.0% with alternative purposing for hot crops that would be destroyed otherwise.

A lot of wrinkles will need to be ironed out before the USDA rolls out a regulatory framework. It remains to be seen whether the CDA’s proposed changes will be adopted or contemplated by policymakers in Washington D.C. Regardless, Colorado’s hemp industry raises important concerns that are not limited to Colorado alone, as we have reported previously. If there is one thing that is certain, it is that a regulatory framework is crucial to the future success of the hemp industry. Until then, the conversation continues.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

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Colby McCoy

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