After two years of work, USDA publishes national hemp rule

The final rule, which takes effect on March 22, sets a higher THC limit — 1% — for determining when plants must be destroyed and makes it easier to dispose of them.

Two years after the 2018 farm bill legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp, the USDA completed work on a regulation to oversee production. Some advocates say hemp could become a profitable crop grown across the country while other analysts say comparatively low demand will limit hemp acreage to the level of a niche crop.

The final rule, which takes effect on March 22, sets a higher THC limit — 1% — for determining when plants must be destroyed and makes it easier to dispose of them. It also allows more time — 30 days — to harvest crops after collecting samples for THC testing and expands, for this year, the number of laboratories that can analyze the samples than initially proposed by the USDA.

“The transition from prohibition to a legal and regulated system takes time and USDA’s final rule is a historic step forward for hemp in the United States,” said attorney Shawn Hauser of the law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP.  “We will continue to work with regulators and through Congress to perfect the regulatory structure for hemp.”

With the change in administration on Wednesday, the hemp rule may come under scrutiny from Biden appointees, industry officials told Hemp Industry Daily. “While modifications provided relief for farmers on disposal, THC negligence and the harvest window after sampling, there are still several areas of concern that the USDA did not appear to budge on, including sampling requirements and the mandate for laboratories to register with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.”

The USDA hemp production page, with highlights of the final rule, is available here.

The final hemp rule was published in the Federal Register and is available here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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