With such a lack of regulations, the hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) industry has faced a number of hurdles. One of the most prominent being the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) limit.
As of now, the 2018 Farm Bill strictly says all hemp crops and CBD products must contain 0.3% THC or less. The issue with this is a good sum of crops ends up sprouting buds past that limit. In turn, nearly 20% of hemp harvested in 2019 was thrown away.
A number of voices within the industry – most notably, farmers and operators – are petitioning to raise the THC limit to 1%.
This would, in fact, change the definition of hemp as a whole. Hemp and marijuana are the exact same plant – cannabis. However, the industry has used these two terms simply as a way to differentiate the phytocannabinoid count within each. Higher THC crop is known as marijuana and a higher CBD crop is known as hemp.
In many regards, the current limitation is preventing hemp from being America’s next cash crop. As of this time, there are various provisions within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s interim final rule (IFR). These are as follows:
- All hemp crops must be tested in a DEA-licensed laboratory. If the hemp doesn’t meet USD regulations, it is tossed.
- If any hemp material comes back with more than 0.5% THC, farmers could face a number of penalties – the most notable being a prohibition on farming hemp in the future.
- Anyone who’s received a drug-related felony within the last 10 years is not allowed to participate as a company executive in the hemp industry.
No other crop out there faces provision as such. In fact, some have pointed out that the USDA is still treating hemp and CBD as an illegal drug.
Some states have found loopholes that allow them to overrule these restrictions. For example, there are a number of states still operating under the 2014 farm bill rather than the 2018 farm bill merely because it’s less restrictive.
Unfortunately, the 2014 farm bill will expire soon enough and, with that, the USDA IFR has a deadline to meet before the 2021 planting season (February 2021).
“Moving this to 1% from 0-.3% is the real solution,” noted Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. “I’m not saying it can’t happen, but expecting it to happen this year is not super likely. I’d like to say a path for it is in the next farm bill. If farmers are getting hurt, we might convince an ag committee to do it. It’s going to be a lot of work. They’re going to have to hear a loud message from the industry.”
It would be unfortunate for the USDA to act on these motions only if farmers continue to struggle through the <0.3% limitation. However, as has been the story throughout hemp’s legalization, this may just be the only solution.